SAN JOSE, Calif. – Buck Shaw Stadium best prepare itself for the return of “blond-haired bedlam.”
San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said Tuesday that he expects forward Steven Lenhart – whose yellow curls inspired that memorably alliterative goal call from announcer Dan Dibley – to be part of the team’s game-day roster as the Quakes host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
“Lenny’s back,” Yallop told reporters. “He should be involved in the weekend, so that’s good.”
It would be Lenhart’s first appearance since undergoing arthroscopic surgery in November to repair damage in the lateral meniscus of his right knee. The late-season injury rendered Lenhart – who tallied a career-high 10 goals in 26 regular-season matches last year – less than fully fit as the top-seeded Quakes were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.
Yallop said he hasn’t yet made a determination how to best use Lenhart and Alan Gordon, who returned from his own off-season surgeries last weekend in the 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo. However, it seems unlikely that Lenhart would be asked to start immediately, given his long layoff.
“If you ask Lenny, he wants to play 90, 95 [minutes], but realistically, he’s not played for four or five months,” Yallop said. “I’m not sure yet. I’ve got to see how they’re feeling. He’s a fit kid though, Lenny. I expect him to be pretty close. We’ll see on Thursday and Friday how [Gordon and Lenhart] are feeling and made a decision on both guys.”
The Quakes’ best chance to avoid fatigue against the Whitecaps might come by starting Gordon and replacing him in the second half with Lenhart. But Yallop is still very open, long-term, to the idea of playing Gordon and Lenhart together with league MVP Chris Wondolowski floating elsewhere on the pitch. That trio proved exceedingly dangerous when used in combination in late-game situations last year, but only started one match together – a 4-1 win against the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 6 – due to injuries.
“If you look at them potentially playing together, it’s great, because Wondo can play in a number of positions – behind them, or wide,” Yallop said. “It’s something we’ll look at, because that’s three very good players and very good offensive threats, and I think the more of those on the field you have, the more chance of scoring goals."