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Quakes welcome Lenhart back to lineup for Fire clash

Steven Lenhart (SJ - CHI)

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – They couldn’t have Steven Lenhart wig night at Buck Shaw Stadium without Steven Lenhart, and that’s very good news for the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Quakes will be giving away hairpieces to the first 2,500 fans through the gates Saturday for San Jose’s match against the Chicago Fire (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), and the man whose blond ringlets they’re modeled upon is expected to be available off coach Frank Yallop’s bench.

“Lenny’s back, so that’s great,” Yallop said. “He’s good to have around, that’s for sure.”

Lenhart sits third on the team with six goals despite missing the Quakes’ last four regular-season matches due to concussion symptoms that developed after a series of hard knocks – most notably a violent collision with Seattle’s Patrick Ianni during the Sounders’ 1-0 victory in a US Open Cup quarterfinal on June 26. The 25-year-old has been symptom free for a week, and practiced fully with the Quakes on Thursday.

“A couple days were tough ... but the recovery’s been great,” Lenhart said. “I just wanted to be safe, erring on the safe side, rather than trying to be a tough guy. It was a good break.”

Lenhart’s return coincides with the expected San Jose debut of his new upstairs neighbor, defender Jed Zayner. Zayner, signed last month to give the Quakes some depth at outside back, should step in for suspended All-Star Steven Beitashour.

It’s a big game for Zayner, and not just because it would be his first regular-season MLS action since starting for Columbus on June 25, 2011; this marks the first time Zayner’s 20-month-old son, Joah, will see his dad in action and have some recognition of what it means.

“Every single time he sees me kick a ball around the house, he gets excited, so I’m sure he’ll be excited to see me out here on the field,” Zayner said.

Coming into a lineup cold can be difficult, but Zayner said he grew accustomed to being thrown into the mix on short notice when he backed up the oft-injured Frankie Hejduk with the Columbus Crew.

“You’ve always got to be ready,” Zayner said. “That’s the whole thing about being a pro, is mentally always staying clicked in. The hard part is you don’t always have the game-in, game-out crispness [of playing regularly].”

Outside of Beitashour, the Quakes’ contingent of game-day All-Stars – Ramiro Corrales, Justin Morrow and Chris Wondolowski – should be available to play with no restrictions, Yallop said.

But midfielder Marvin Chávez, named to the inactive All-Star list, has a tight left hamstring and will sit out, likely being replaced by Shea Salinas on the right wing.

“What we don’t want to do is risk him, at all, especially with an injury like that,” said Yallop, who admitted that, with the Quakes’ next regular-season game after Saturday not coming until Aug. 11, it was tempting to let Chávez rest. “He’s an explosive player that needs all his explosiveness. We’ve got to make sure he’s OK.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.