June 12, 2001
The unsung hero of so many of the San Jose Earthquakes games over the past month and a half stepped into the spotlight on Saturday evening in the nations capital. Steven Lenhart buried a hat trick to lead the Earthquakes to a convincing 4-2 win over D.C. United and underscored the depth of attacking players head coach Frank Yallop has at his disposal. The barrage of goals is a particularly uplifting moment for Lenhart considering his struggles off the field at the beginning of the season. In addition to missing the first five games of the season through injury, Lenhart also had to deal with the death of his father. Since his return, however, Lenhart has been an important part of the Earthquakes attack, and with his three goals and assist has now tallied four goals and three assists in his last five games. Theres a lot thats been going on in my life. I think more than anything, its just a good release for me to play, Lenhart explained. Yallop was also full of praised for the burly striker, commenting, (Im) very, very happy for Steve. Hes been though a lot this year with his family and moving from Columbus. He looked really good tonight, for sure.
RECAP: Earthquakes, Lenhart topple D.C. United, 4-2
However, Lenhart indicated that soccer-wise, not much had changed in his game since he moved from the Columbus Crew to San Jose, or even since he was playing college soccer at Azusa Pacific, a small NAIA program. Ive been doing the same things ever since I began playing soccer, he explained. Sometimes you get more goals than not. Tonight was just one of those nights. Im feeling confident and ready to help the team more. San Joses English midfielder Simon Dawkins is another player who has had to deal with his own set of struggles. In addition to the challenges presented by adapting to life in a new country, Dawkins also missed eight weeks of play after a bilateral fasciotomy. He first returned to score off the bench last weekend against Houston before netting his second goal in as many games minutes after entering the game in Washington. It feels great to score, Dawkins said. Any goal you score is great. It was an important one as well to put us 3-2 up, so it really got us going and then the fourth goal we scored really topped the game off. The flood of goals will come as a great relief to those fans who worried about the Earthquakes offensive output without 2010 MLS scoring champion Chris Wondolowski, who is on duty with the U.S. national team. In fact, in 2010, no other player besides Wondolowski scored three goals, but tonights goals gave both Dawkins and Lenhart a total of four goals so far this season, with Wondolowski sitting on six. People tend to panic in their quotes, and writing about us and all those things. And things are going to change, Yallop explained. Were going to have some games where were not going to score. But theres ups and downs in our league. I never felt we werent going to score goals. I wouldnt go out and get rid of Lenhart and get some other striker in, because I felt and I knew that we can score goals in our league. And its proved tonight. While its likely the Earthquakes wont score four goals again for a while the team hasnt scored four goals in multiple MLS games since 2004 those around the team will want the Earthquakes to continue achieving a consistent offensive output. What they have been finding out in the last two weeks is that consistency wont always have the name Wondolowski attached to it.For more Earthquakes and MLS, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano