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Steven Lenhart scores in stoppage time to lift San Jose Earthquakes past Seattle Sounders, 2-1

(Santa Clara, CA) In a season where just about everything that can go right is going right for San Jose, the Earthquakes pulled out yet another last minute win Saturday night, beating Seattle 2-1. Seattle had tied the game in stoppage time through Fredy Montero, but Steven Lenhart was quick to answer, soaring above the crowd to head home a Shea Salinas corner kick in the 93rd minute to give San Jose the win and extend their lead atop the MLS Western Division.

A standing-room-only crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium saw Seattle’s Sammy Ochoa hit the crossbar twice before San Jose took the lead through Simon Dawkins in the 71st minute, setting the stage for the stoppage time dramatics.

With San Jose’s Frank Yallop sitting out due to suspension, Mark Watson filled in as coach for this game. “We once again showed a great spirit,” Watson said. “We’ve done it a bunch of times this year. No game is lost until the final whistle, and it’s never a truer statement than with this team.”

Be sure to check out Joe Nuxoll's photo gallery from the match

The last time San Jose played Seattle was in an Open Cup match that ended in a melee starring Eddie Johnson and Jed Zayner, so referee Baldomero Toledo was keeping a close eye on things from the start. Victor Bernardez picked up a yellow card in 15th minute for tripping Christian Tiffert, and Steven Lenhart and Jeff Parke got lectured after the two tangled off the ball in the 36th. When Justin Morrow banged into Jeff Parke just before halftime, the San Jose defender was also booked.

San Jose, coming off a two week break, looked a bit sluggish in the opening half, and didn’t do much with the few scoring opportunities they created. In the 10th minute, Steven Lenhart got on the end of a Rafael Baca free kick but stabbed his volley well wide. In the 21st minute, a corner kick from Marvin Chavez gave Lenhart another opportunity, but his weak header was an easy save for Seattle’s Michael Gspurning. A drive from Simon Dawkins from the top of the penalty area missed wide right in the 28th minute.

Seattle, fresh off an emotional loss in the Open Cup Final Wednesday, started the game with Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson, and Mauro Rosales on the bench. Despite San Jose having most of the possession in the first half, it was the Sounders who came closest to scoring: a bicycle kick from Sammy Ochoa rattling the cross bar in the 32nd minute.

San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch didn’t get his first save until the 50th minute, but came up big in the 59th, pushing away a diving header by Andy Rose to keep the game scoreless.

On the ensuing CK, Sammy Ochoa was again denied by the cross bar, this time his header from close range hitting the woodwork.

Eddie Johnson came on in the 68th minute to try and spark the Seattle offense, but it was San Jose getting on the scoreboard soon afterwards. In the 71st minute, Steve Beitashour’s long throw into the penalty area was knocked down by the Seattle defense, falling to Simon Dawkins near the top of the penalty area. Dawkins hit it first time, beating Michael Gspurning cleanly inside the right post for his fourth goal of the year.

Seattle responded by bringing Mauro Rosales into the game in the 82nd minute, and having Fredy Montero come on in the 85th. The latter replacement proved to be crucial, as two minutes into stoppage time Brad Evans’ long throw into the danger zone was not cleared by the San Jose defense, and in the goal mouth scramble Fredy Montero banged home the equalizer from three yards out.

But that only set the stage for some more late heroics by San Jose. In the 93rd minute, Shea Salinas’ corner kick found Lenhart making a near post run, and Lenhart powered it home to give the Earthquakes the win.

“I just floated the cross in there,” Salinas said. “Lenhart is a beast in the air.”

“We were very disappointed that (Seattle) scored,” Mark Watson said. Once again the team showed a lot of resiliency, a lot of character, and Steven scored a great goal late to win it for us.”

The win stretches San Jose’s record to 14-5-5 on the year, good for 47 points: a five point lead in the MLS West, and a four point lead overall. The Earthquakes will now travel to Montreal to face the Impact next Saturday, and perhaps write another chapter in what’s been a storybook season so far.

San Jose Earthquakes (14-5-5, 47 pts.) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (10-6-7, 37 pts.)
Aug. 11, 2012 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Attendance: 10,744

Scoring Summary: SJ — Simon Dawkins (unassisted) 71; SEA — Fredy Montero (unassisted) 92+; SJ — Steven Lenhart (Shea Salinas) 93+.

Misconduct Summary: SJ — Victor Bernardez (caution) 15; SJ — Justin Morrow (caution) 47+; SEA — Adam Johansson (caution) 82.

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Marvin Chavez (Shea Salinas 87), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Simon Dawkins, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart.

Statistics: Total Shots: 18; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 2; Fouls: 10; Offside: 2; Corner Kicks: 8.

Seattle Sounders FC Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Marc Burch, Jeff Parke, Zach Scott, Andy Rose (Mauro Rosales 82), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alex Caskey (Fredy Montero 84), Sammy Ochoa (Eddie Johnson 68), Christian Tiffert.

Statistics: Total Shots: 12; Shots on Goal: 3; Saves: 3; Fouls: 17; Offside: 1; Corner Kicks: 7.