SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart returned just in time to help deal a blow to the LA Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield hopes.
With Lenhart on as a second-half substitute -- his first action since July 19 as he recovered from surgery on his right knee -- Chris Wondolowski scored his 13th goal of the season to give the Quakes a 1-1 tie against their fiercest rivals Sunday afternoon.
Defender Omar Gonzalez’s 28th-minute header looked for a long while as though it would carry the Galaxy (14-5-9) to their seventh win in eight matches -- and put more pressure on Supporters’ Shield leaders Seattle (17-7-3).
Instead, Wondolowski continued his scintillating play since returning from World Cup action to salvage a point for the Quakes (6-11-10) with a 66th-minute strike. Wondolowski now has eight goals and four assists in 12 post-Brazil matches, although it hasn’t kept San Jose from going winless in their last eight games.
The Galaxy -- who extended their unbeaten run to seven straight -- owned the first half, and probably should have taken a multi-goal lead into the interval. LA dominated possession from the start, generating the match’s first seven corners. Baggio Husidic nearly opened the scoring in the 25th minute when he took possession of a half-cleared corner and beat Jon Busch with a rolling shot through traffic -- only to be denied by the post.
Busch made a pawing save against former teammate Alan Gordon two minutes later, but was unable to stop Gonzalez’s 28th-minute header from yet another Stefan Ishikazi corner. The U.S. international shed Quakes midfielder Atiba Harris to drive attempt down and across the face of goal, away from Busch. San Jose rookie Tommy Thompson had a last-ditch chance to save the day but his attempted clearance couldn’t keep out Gonzalez’s fourth goal on the year.
The Quakes were on the brink of going down 2-0 in the 37th minute after the Galaxy were awarded a penalty. Busch couldn’t keep hold of Robbie Keane’s long cross for Gyasi Zardes, and in the ensuing penalty-area scramble, Jason Hernandez was whistled for a hand ball while sliding to block Husidic’s valley from 15 yards. Keane let San Jose off the hook, however, by crashing the ensuing spot kick into the crossbar and over, his third miss in four PK attempts this season.
San Jose went more direct in the second half, pulling Thompson and moving Harris up top as a target forward. That paved the way, tactically, for the return of Lenhart, who replaced Harris in the 63rd minute.
The intensity on the pitch seemed to peak with the appearance of the Quakes’ long remaining “Bash Brother.” Referee Sorin Stoica handed out five yellow cards in the ensuing 15 minutes, including one to Lenhart barely more than a minute following his entrance.
Lenhart’s presence helped to preoccupy the center of LA’s defense, which in turn opened room for Wondolowski to operate. The veteran snuck in behind Robbie Rogers and Zardes on the right wing to meet Jordan Stewart’s bouncing pass at the back post and send into the roof of Brian Rowe’s net.
LA featured defender A.J. DeLaGarza at right back, his first action since the death of infant son Luca earlier this month.