SAN JOSE, Calif. – Regardless of how you describe the San Jose Earthquakes’ style of play, it’s taken the club to the top of the MLS standings.
So no matter how many opposing fans might rail on the internet about the perception of “dirty” play by San Jose, Quakes coach Frank Yallop has no plans to change his team’s marching orders, even after forward Steven Lenhart was sent off last Saturday as part of a double-red situation in a 3-1 loss at Montreal.
“We’re not dirty at all,” Yallop said Tuesday after training. “That’s for sure. I’m trying to work out what’s dirty about Steven Lenhart. I haven’t figured it out yet.”
Lenhart and his primary foil, Montreal center back Hassoun Camara, were both ejected in the 21st minute following a scuffle inside the Impact box. After referee Armando Villarreal dealt a pair of straight reds to the combatants, he awarded a penalty kick to San Jose, which Chris Wondolowski converted for his league-leading 18th goal of the season and a 1-0 Quakes lead.
Three days later, Yallop professed to still be mystified by why Lenhart was given the gate, given that he -- in the Quakes’ view -- was the victim of repeated muggings by Camara. The league’s Disciplinary Committee apparently agreed, as it moved Tuesday to suspend Camara for a further game in addition to the automatic one-game ban for seeing red.
“Does [Lenhart] get into people’s heads? Sure,” Yallop said. “Is he a nightmare to play against? Yes. But he’s not elbowed, punched or head butted anybody. And he got that all Saturday night, and he got red-carded as well.”
There’s no question with Lenhart and Alan Gordon as a pair of target men to use up top, San Jose plays a physical brand of soccer. To Yallop, however, there’s an important difference between being hard-nosed and crossing the line into dirty.
“[Lenhart] initiates contact, but that’s part of the game,” Yallop said. “Getting across people and being strong, the last time I looked – and I played the game for a number of years – you’re actually allowed to do that. You’re not allowed to punch people in the face and head butt them. That’s outside of the game.”
In the meantime, Lenhart will sit out the Quakes’ match against Colorado this weekend and get ready for a return against Chivas USA on Sept. 2. His coach will not be looking for any modifications to a style that’s led to a career-best eight goals already this season.
“A lot of the talk, I don’t really see where it comes from,” Yallop said. “I see a guy trying hard. I loved Steven Lenhart when he was playing for Columbus. I never thought he was dirty. I thought he was excellent. I loved the way he played. And we’ve had teams try to trade for him, by the way, last season. They were inquiring about our player.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.