Lenhart, Quakes brilliant -- again

August 12, 2012, 6:45 am
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Robert JonasCSNCalifornia.com
SANTA CLARA -- The Earthquakes' magical season continued as San Jose forwardSteven Lenhart scored a dramatic stoppage time goal to earn his side a 2-1victory over the Seattle Sounders.Lenhart inflicted the same late match heroics on the Quakesprevious opponent, the Chicago Fire, in a 1-1 draw two weeks ago. But the blondhaired forward would not take all the credit for the comeback efforts thatculminated in his eighth goal of the season.The character of the team hasnt changed since day one,said Lenhart. Its only gotten stronger. Whether we score in the first coupleminutes of at the end, we are playing for each other and thats why we arehaving success. Its exciting to be a part of and its fun.A second half goal from Simon Dawkins had staked the Quakesto a 1-0 lead, but the Sounders equalized through Fredy Montero in the secondminute of stoppage time and appeared to have secured a valuable road draw.Most teams would drop their heads at that point, saidassistant coach Mark Watson, filling in at head coach for the suspended FrankYallop, and say theyve lost two points and its going to be a draw and seethe game out. But our guys dont have that in them. They keep pushing for 90minutes; theyve got such great character.Indeed, Lenhart wrote the perfect ending to the match withhis 93rd minute header off an Earthquakes corner kick. And coachWatson was not surprised in the least that the team rallied for their 14thwin of the season, a new high since the franchise rejoined the league in 2008.Its happened time and time again for us, said Watson.This team has shown a great spirit and will not stop until the final whistleand they did it again tonight.The victory was the second straight of the season for SanJose against Seattle in MLS regular season play and also extended their BuckShaw Stadium unbeaten streak in 2012 to 10 games. But does the team reallyexpect to post a fairy tale ending in every match as they continue to completeone improbable comeback after another?No, no, said Lenhart, but I expect to play hard for 95 minutesor however long the game is. So until the final whistle blows theres always apossibility to score.Expectation for the dramatic or not, these Earthquakes aremaking every game a memorable experience in this most special of seasons.San Jose had a sluggish start to the first half but twicenearly opened the scoring through forward Lenhart. In the 10thminute, Marvin Chavez delivered a quick-start free kick inside the Seattlepenalty area that found Lenhart alone at the far post. Uncontested, the forwardside-foot volleyed a shot that was well off target from 6 yards out.In the 22nd minute Lenhart was at it again whenhe found a seam in the Sounders defensive formation on an Earthquakes cornerkick, but his diving header was comfortably saved by Seattle goalkeeper MichaelGspurning.The Sounders had the best opportunity to take the lead on anear golaso in the 32ndminute. With space to maneuver on the left flank, Seattles Alex Caskey roundedMLS All-Star defender Steven Beitashour and sent a cross toward the far post.Designated player Christian Tiffert, making his first start for the Sounders,headed the ball back in front of goal. An audacious overhead kick was attemptedby forward Sammy Ochoa, but his blistering shot caromed off the crossbar.The teams entered halftime with the match still knotted atzeros. Earthquakes defenders Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow both earned yellowcards during the first half while the Sounders escaped any discipline fromreferee Baldomero Toledo.A gradual improvement in play from both sides that startedout the second half finally erupted in flurry of activity starting in the 58thminute when both keepers were required to make great saves to keep the gamescoreless. Lenhart again saw his chance to score a goal go wanting when hisheader off a Chavez crossed was pawed away by Gspurning. Less than a minutelater, goalkeeper Jon Busch made his own acrobatic save on an uncontestedheader in the area by Seattle midfielder Andy Rose.The ensuing corner kick by Seattle was sent to the far postfor Jeff Parke to head back into the six yard box. Ochoa once again made hisacquaintance with the crossbar as his header glanced high just off and over thetarget.In the 64th minute, MLS Golden Boot leader ChrisWondolowski had his best chance of the evening when he got on the end of a freekick from Chavez but headed the ball wide of the target. While Wondolowski wasunable to add to his 17 goals on the season, the resurgent Quakes attack gave asign of things to come, as the Earthquakes had gained momentum over theSounders.The goal for San Jose finally came in the 71stminute and was started with a long throw-in from Beitashour into the Soundersarea. With Lenhart harassing the defense in an effort to receive the throw, theball could only be cleared as far as the top of the area. Dawkins, circling infrom the top of the area, one-touched a low shot through the Sounders defendersand just inside the post for the Earthquakes goal. It was the Englishmansfourth goal of the season for San Jose.A tense final 20 minutes of play then gave way to 3 minutesof stoppage time. Seattle, with late match offensive substitutes Montero, EddieJohnson, and Mauro Rosales wresting control of the game found the equalizer inthe second minute of stoppage time. A deep throw into the Earthquakes area waspoorly cleared by Bernardez and Sam Cronin, and the loose ball was headed homeby Montero to tie the score at one goal apiece.However, the never-say-die Earthquakes answered less than aminute later through none other than Lenhart. A corner kick delivery fromsubstitute Shea Salinas found Lenhart lurking at the edge of the six-yard box,and the forward flicked a header to the far post to restore the San Jose lead.The match ended seconds later, and the Earthquakes celebrated another stoppagetime victory.Up next for the Earthquakes is a visit to the MontrealImpact next Saturday afternoon.

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