Lenhart & Cronin propel Quakes over Rapids
The San Jose Earthquakes had waited all season to taste victory on the road, but in beating the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday night, they managed to finally reach that mark.
Goals from Steven Lenhart and Sam Cronin staked the Earthquakes to a 2 goal lead, but Nathan Sturgis made it interesting with a second half strike. The Rapids played most of the game a man down after forward Atiba Harris was dismissed with a red card, and though relentless in pursuit of an equalizer came up a goal short in the end.
Just over a week after San Jose saw head coach Frank Yallop depart the Quakes, his replacement Mark Watson steered his new charges to the victory in one of their best overall performances of the season. With the win in his coaching debut, Watson kept up a San Jose tradition as 7 times the club has welcomed a new head coach to the sideline and the team has won 6 times.
The Earthquakes welcomed previously injured defender Nana Attakora back to the starting XI, as coach Watson made three changes to previous coach Frank Yallop’s line-up that had lost 3-0 two weeks ago at Real Salt Lake. In addition to Attakora, Rafael Baca was back in the center of midfield with partner Sam Cronin, and target forward Lenhart paired with Alan Gordon up top. Chris Wondolowski was stationed on the wing, the same position from which he scored a hat-trick in his last visit to DSG Park.
Looking much more active to start the match as compared to the debacle at RSL, the Earthquakes quickly asserted their dominance over the Rapids. In the 5th minute, a free kick opportunity from Cronin was settled by Gordon, but Walter Martinez sent a low shot wide of the target.
Gordon kept at it with his active play in the air, and in the 11th minute provided a crucial flick-in header that Lenhart raced onto inside the Rapids half. Cutting the ball back to his right foot, and wrong-footing the Colorado centerback duo of Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor, Lenhart rocketed a shot off the fingertips of Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin and into the upper right hand corner of the goal to stake the Earthquakes to a 1-0 lead.
In the 18th minute, a hard tackle from Harris on Gordon earned the Rapids forward a straight red card and the Earthquakes a man advantage. Already up a goal on the road, the decision seemed certain to help the team earn a valuable victory away from home.
In the 30th minute goalkeeper Jon Busch did well to keep the Quakes ahead as he parried a shot from midfielder Dillon Powers away from his net. In the 38th minute, after Deshorn Brown created a fast break after pushing down Attakora near midfield, the Rapids rookie drove into the area. A sliding save from Jason Hernandez prevented Brown from getting a shot on goal. The trio of Colorado opportunities was lost in the 50th minute when Busch again made a spectacular save, preventing a solid Martin Rivero attempt from reaching its intended target.
Finally taking advantage of being a man up, the Earthquakes used a great possession sequence from Baca that allowed the midfielder room near the center line to chip a perfect pass over the Rapids defense and right to Cronin. With Irwin rushing out to meet him, Cronin unleashed a perfect shot through the ‘keeper and into the back of the net for a 2-0 San Jose lead.
Lenhart had a golden chance to make it a three goal in lead in the 66th minute, but the Quakes forward weakly chipped a shot right into Irwin’s gloves when he had only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Rapids pulled a goal back one minute later as midfielder Sturgis headed a perfect cross from Brian Mullan that easily beat Busch reaching back across his body. The miss by Lenhart and the goal by Sturgis energized the home side and they attacked relentlessly in search of a second goal.
In the 70th minute, Colorado looked certain to make it 2-2, but a ball into the area by Sturgis that was headed on target by Jaime Castrillon was pushed away by Busch with a reflex save.
Wondolowski looked certain to extend the Earthquakes lead in the 79th minute as he raced into the penalty area and turned to set up his shot. However, as he took a swing at the ball, Wynne expertly bumped him off the ball and the scoring opportunity was lost.
For 15 furious minutes, the undermanned Rapids went for broke against the straining Earthquakes defense, but they were unable to find an equalizer. For San Jose, the result was significant, as after 7 games this season without a win on the road, the Earthquakes secured 3 points away from Buck Shaw Stadium for the first time in 2013.
The Earthquakes will look to continue their successful run when they visit lowly DC United next Saturday at RFK Stadium.