PORTLAND, Ore. – Maybe it was the 16,118 singing and chanting fans that gave Steven Lenhart a feeling he hasn’t felt in eight months. Or maybe it was mixing it up in a brief melee with Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury.
But most likely it was that the San Jose forward felt like a Major League Soccer player again Monday after playing a full 90 minutes in a preseason Portland Tournament match against the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field, his second game back with the Earthquakes after missing the second half of last season.
And while Lenhart wasn’t able to notch a goal in the 1-1 tie in front of the raucous crowd, he said San Jose’s active and, at times, dominating attack was a good sign of things to come in the regular season.
“It was good to run around, good atmosphere,” Lenhart said. “The team is still starting to take shape. I thought there was a lot of good stuff. It’s good to be competitive. … It was fun. When all those people started filling in, it was good. I love playing in front of people yelling bad things at you.”
Lenhart, who left the Quakes in late July last year after the death of his father, uncorked four shots, three of which were on goal. San Jose’s lone tally – an own goal by Timbers defender Hanyer Mosquera – came on a cross by fellow forward Chris Wondolowski that was heading right for Lenhart.
“Wondo just does such a good job to get open in the box and just played a dangerous ball across,” Lenhart said. “Who knows what would have happened [if it got through]. It was good stuff by Wondo, though.”
If big things are expected out of Lenhart and Wondolowski, the owner of the 2010 MLS Golden Boot award and joint league scoring leader last season, it’s for good reason. Lenhart was poised for a breakout 2011 when he scored five goals and recorded three assists before leaving the team.
In his first preseason match on Feb. 18 against the Chicago Fire in Ventura, Calif., Lenhart picked up where he left off last year with a goal in San Jose’s 2-0 win.
“He is a dangerous player, and he’s very hard to play against,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop of his 6-foot-1 target man. “And I think once he gets his feet under him a little bit more and he gets into a rhythm, he’s going to do well.”
And Lenhart said Monday’s game was a good indication that he’s rounding into form.
“I think I’m getting there,” he said. “I think I still have some room to go, but I’m feeling stronger and running hard.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.