SAN JOSE, Calif. – When the San Jose Earthquakes open their season March 19, their biggest offseason acquisition will be in street clothes.
Target striker Steven Lenhart, acquired in a draft-day trade from Columbus, underwent arthroscopic surgery Thursday to repair a slight tear in the meniscus of his right knee. A team spokesman said the 24-year-old will miss three to four weeks, knocking him out of the Quakes’ first match of 2011, at home against Real Salt Lake.
“It’s not really, really bad, but it’s one of those things where it was going to linger,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “He wanted to get it done. It’s his knee, and he felt it wasn’t right.”
Yallop said Lenhart initially reported the pain after taking a shot at the tail end of the team’s 10-day training camp stint in England. The club returned this week and Lenhart practiced Wednesday before an MRI scan revealed the damage.
The injury is especially disappointing in light of the key role Lenhart is expected to play in the 4-3-3 attack the Quakes have been installing during preseason. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Lenhart was slated to be the bruising force in the penalty box, providing an inviting target and hopefully drawing defenders away from 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski.
Without Lenhart, the Quakes don’t have a ready replacement with the same skill set. Yallop said Ryan Johnson will start as the target man in the Quakes’ preseason match against Colorado on Friday in San Luis Obispo, but Johnson’s best work for San Jose last season – and over the winter for the Jamaican national team – came out on the left wing.
Yallop admitted to disappointment at losing Lenhart so close to the season’s start.
“It is [disappointing], because he’s played well and trained well in preseason, but that’s the reason we have a squad of players,” Yallop said. “Hopefully we won’t miss him too much.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes