By JOSE M. ROMERO
The San Jose Earthquakes are trying to show they belong in the conversation as playoff contenders in the MLS Western Conference. Saturday's 2-0 win the Houston Dynamo put them right back into the mix, at least for the time being.
Steven Lenhart and Simon Dawkins scored second-half goals to break a halftime scoreless tie, and the Earthquakes raised their unbeaten streak to five games while the Dynamo are winless in the past five.
San Jose (4-4-4) has 16 points, four out of fourth place for the time being. Houston (3-5-6) remained at 15 points in the middle of the Eastern Conference table.
The Earthquakes' most notable absence was that of leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, who is with the U.S. national team. Lenhart was active early after the Dynamo's Colin Clark and Cam Weaver couldn't connect for a Weaver header on goal in the 13th minute.
That happened to the Quakes in the first half, in the 35th minute when Sam Cronin led Lenhart too far. Two minutes later a service from Ramiro Corrales went to Anthony Ampaipitakwong for a header that Houston's Tally Hall saved.
As time went on, Lenhart got closer and closer to scoring. He tried to nudge the ball past defenders and into the goal with his right foot in the 48th minute, but the try went wide. In the 61st minute Khari Stephenson had a good opportunity but pushed his shot wide right.
Lenhart finally put the attacking Earthquakes on the board in the 69th minute. He dived for an on-target header on a pass into the box from teammate Steven Beitashour and put it past Hall in the bottom right corner of the net.
The Dynamo had to commit to defending Lenhart better, which allowed Dawkins, a 76th-minute sub, to get free. Houston had one quality chance to tie when Lovel Palmer's header in the 84th minute went wide.
Dawkins scored on a touch-and-run play with Cronin, passing to Cronin and sprinting inside the defenders into space. Cronin fed the ball ahead to Dawkins, who scored with ease in extra time.