By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah. – The San Jose Earthquakes might not be out of the playoff race just yet.
In a three-minute span in the first half, the Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake traded three goals, with Steven Lenhart scoring first and third to put the Earthquakes up, 2-1, after 21 minutes. Even though RSL midfielder Javier Morales equalized in between, Lenhart’s brace was enough for the Earthquakes to sneak out of Rio Tinto Stadium with the three points.
It was a win that put the Earthquakes within striking distance of a playoff berth, sitting just four points out of the final playoff spot. The result was the type of victory that midfielder Sam Cronin said had “eluded” the Earthquakes all season.
The first goal of the night came completely against the run of play in the 18th minute. Earthquakes midfielder Cordell Cato sent in a ball into the box where Lenhart was waiting for a chance on goal. Sloppy marking by RSL made it too easy for the curly-haired forward who rose up and slotted it past Rimando.
Only one minute later, RSL provided a response. Club captain Kyle Beckerman sent corner kick into the box and the Earthquakes left Morales wide open, leading the Argentine to easily put a foot to the ball for a goal, leveling the match at 1-1.
The match swung wildly back in the visitors’ favor when Lenhart scored his brace, seemingly seconds after RSL had equalized.
Shea Salinas sent a free kick into the box and Lenhart once again found himself open to head past Rimando for a second time from almost exactly the same spot, taking the lead for good in the 21st minute.
Lenhart’s coach, Mark Watson gushed about the forward and said that although Lenhart doubled his season’s goal-scoring tally on Saturday, Lenhart deserves credit for all the work he does off the ball.
“Two great finishes but I thought the things he did throughout the game were good,” Watson said to reporters after the match. “He worked hard. He battled for everything. Lenny always gives you 100 percent, it was no different tonight.”
Watson felt that, coming into this match, the Earthquakes playoff hopes were dim but said that tonight’s win is a huge step in the right direction.
“It was a big win for sure. We knew, just looking at the standings and the games remaining, that we maybe had to be perfect on the way in,” Watson said. “So we knew it was going to be a tough night, but I thought the way we approached the game and I thought the effort and commitment the players put in were fantastic.”
San Jose is not out of it yet and Cronin is confident that the team will do whatever it takes till the very end.
“We’re gonna keep going,” said Cronin. “We’re confident we can win every game. The most important thing is Chivas next week; take care of business and then move onto the next.”
Here are the game highlights:
Well, Schuler’s been back training for a month now and MacDonald is good to go. Get Salcedo out of there for a couple games until he can learn to mark someone goal side.
In his postmatch comments, Nat Borchers shouldered the blame for both goals…hard to blame Salcedo for this (although I agree his judgment has led to errors that have cost RSL at times in other matches). I’m not sure MacDonald is 90-minute fit at altitude, and Schuler’s form is a big question mark, but I do think on this final stretch and in the playoffs, one of the veterans might be a better start than Salcedo.
To their credit, Wondo and Lenhart were switching sides constantly throughout the match, making them difficult to mark, but that still doesn’t excuse letting Lenhart score the exact same goal twice in 3 minutes.
Defense is RSLs Achilles heel. Salcedo is so promising yet so mistake prone. That he’s 18 is impressive and frustrating at the same time.
Lenhart doesn’t look so curly-haired anymore…
I liked Cato today. He delivered the ball perfectly when he needed to. There could have been one more goal for the Earthquakes if Baca had passed the ball to Wondo instead of trying to score himself. Mature players pass the ball when someone else has a better shot on goal
I agree, I thought Cato’s crosses were menacing…lots of pace. I thought on the Baca/ Wondo counter, the RSL defender (Beltran?) played some very savvy D. He overplayed the pass to Wondo daring Baca to shoot from right center. Definitely risky, but they probably knew Baca doesn’t have a great shot.
The referee did a good job this time, too. It helps when both teams get judged the same as to fouls and other infractions. I hope the refereeing gets better for all the teams. It is essential that there is no prejudiced refereeing. It kills the game and it may prevent injuries among the players
Agreed. Very fairly called game both ways.
Huge win in a tough place to get a result. Lenny absolutely crushed his header…stunning goal. Probably too little too late, Quakes need to run the table and have Colorado, Vancouver and Dallas drop a ton of points. It would be miraculous, but all the teams are playing each other or stronger western teams the rest of the way…stranger things have happened.