CARSON, Calif. — San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart made his physical presence known on Sunday night in a 1-0 defeat of Chivas USA at StubHub Center. But was the bad blood as bad as it appeared?
Lenhart was ejected for a second yellow card in the 81st minute following a collision with goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. But it was the first infraction that left Chivas USA talking.
The bruising Quakes target man saw his first booking for elbowing Steve Purdy in the face in the 29th minute when the two came together in an aerial collision (see video above). The Chivas center back had to leave the match late in the first half with his hand covering his face and was immediately taken to a hospital for examination.
Purdy suffered several facial fractures that will likely require surgery next week, according to a club spokesperson.
Chivas USA head coach José Luis “Guero” Real had not seen a replay of the Lenhart elbow on Purdy when he spoke to reporters afterward, but he appeared upset.
“His style of play is peculiar,” Real said of Lenhart. “He’s always going for contact. At the end, it wasn’t necessary for him to go into Dan like he did.”
Kennedy, however, didn't believe there was bad intent from the bruising striker. The two grew up in the same neighborhood in Yorba Linda, Calif., but never played against each other competitively.
“He’s really a handful to deal with,” Kennedy said. “He’s a guy I would want on my team. We’ve spent some time together, so I know the kind of person he is.”
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Though the Rojiblancos failed to capitalize on the man advantage, Kennedy was glad the referees looked out for his safety.
“I’m just going for the ball,” Kennedy said. “As a keeper, that’s why you’ve got to be protected, because in the end every time I’m going out my eyes are on the ball.
"It’s easy for forwards to come in and try to get a piece of you and they know the ball is loose just off that. With the bigger point forwards in our league, you know they’ll be looking for contact.”