SAN JOSE, Calif. — Steven Lenhart couldn’t help but joke with reporters last Saturday when asked about the San Jose Earthquakes’ second-half prowess.
“We just come in here and have dance parties,” Lenhart explained, “and then everyone’s good to go.”
It’s doubtful that a full-blast Lady Gaga soundtrack is really at the heart of the Quakes’ ability to turn things up after intermission. But there’s no denying that San Jose have thrived in second halves while running their unbeaten streak to five consecutive MLS matches.
The Quakes’ last nine goals — all but one of their tallies during this current 3-0-2 stretch — have come in the 50th minute or later. That includes both scores in San Jose’s 2-0 win against Houston on Saturday — a diving header by Lenhart in the 69th, and a well-placed give-and-go finish by Simon Dawkins during injury time.
As the Quakes prepare to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live), the question is whether they can keep up this rope-a-dope strategy.
Given that San Jose had a pair of second-half leads in their last road game, at Chicago on May 28, coach Frank Yallop’s response is something along the lines of, “Why not?”
“We didn’t play well [in the] first half, for whatever reason,” Yallop said of the Dynamo match. “I thought that what we did was — we didn’t panic. We’ve actually done that for the last three home games that we’ve won — not played particularly well in the first half — and I’ve not changed too much at halftime. [The players] have gone out and made the difference in the second half. I thought we drove on.”
To some extent, the second-half surge is a natural outgrowth of San Jose’s recommitment to the defensive side of things. The Quakes’ primary mantra after seeing their quality of play slip during April has been to guard the goal above all and figure out the scoring portion of the script later.
That sharp focus has helped them outscore their opponents by a combined 9-3 count over the Quakes’ last four matches.
“I think it was important for us to come in a halftime and regroup, understand what exactly we’re trying to do: Get the balls out wide, let’s get switches, let’s get the fullbacks overlapping, let’s get them involved,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “In the second half, we came out with a lot more energy. We picked up the tempo. And we were able to get the goal we were looking for. We were fortunate enough to hold them off and get that second one. And that’s really the sign of a good team.”
That and some sweet dance moves.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes