Among all the bells and whistles of the brand-new Livestrong Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City didn’t skimp on their audio-visual requirements.
So when it came time to break down film on the San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting KC made sure that Steven Lenhart didn’t turn them into a second consecutive hat-trick victim.
Coming in on the heels of his first three-goal performance in 71 career MLS appearances at the expense of D.C. United, Lenhart was kept off the scoresheet Friday. In doing so, Kansas City beat the visiting Quakes 1-0 for their first victory at LSP.
It was a frustrating night for Lenhart, who battled all evening with hard-nosed Sporting defender Aurélien Collin. The Frenchman never turned down a chance to get a lick in on Lenhart, who already draws plenty of physical, off-the-ball attention.
“If you watch the game before, where Lenny got a hat trick and an assist, you’re not going to say, ‘Leave him alone when he’s around the goal,’” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “You’ve got to be sure you’re going to be on him, and I thought they did that.”
Lenhart finally snapped in the 50th minute after another tussle with Collin, earning his second yellow card of the season for dissent.
Collin picked up his own yellow two minutes later, and will serve a one-game suspension Wednesday for caution accumulation. That’s of little comfort to the Quakes, however, who can’t afford to let points slip away after a dismal April.
With 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski still out on US national team duty, San Jose might have to subtly tweak their attack in order to give Lenhart more opportunities to make an impact. Rather than looping a long ball into the penalty box and hoping Lenhart can redirect it into a dangerous area, the Earthquakes could try to keep more possession when they host the LA Galaxy on Saturday (6:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“We relied a little too much on being direct,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com. “[Sporting KC’s] back line did a really good job of pressuring [Lenhart] and really making him work for every single touch he got.”
As veteran Bobby Convey is quick to point out, the Quakes abandoned their possession experiment before Lenhart was up to speed after missing five matches to start the season. Perhaps, with Simon Dawkins looking fit enough to once again start, it’s time to reinstate that look?
Regardless, San Jose will keep its options open as they turn to Lenhart to continue to make plays.
“I think it becomes an adjustment for the rest of us,” Hernandez added, “to be able to find him in ways that he can maximize other plays he’s trying to make.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes