It took until Week 16 of the MLS schedule for the San Jose Earthquakes to collect their first victory on the road, but the team earned it with a pair of well taken goals in beating the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The match winner from Sam Cronin early in the second half was impressive in its build up, but it was Steven Lenhart's opener that was particularly impressive.
How impressive? The 11th minute golazo was nominated as one of five candidates for MLS Goal of the Week (it was getting outpaced in the voting by Darlington Nagbe's stellar strike as of Thursday morning) and was the focus on a technical analysis by Greg Lalas as part of his excellent "Anatomy of a Goal" video series.
Perhaps more important for the Earthquakes, not just that it came as part of a win, is that the goal marks Lenhart's first of the season after scoring a career best 10 goals in 2012. The team has created a lot of scoring chances in 2013, but their finishing has been well below the level of last year when they amassed a franchise record 72 goals. If the Quakes are going to climb back into playoff contention, they will need to bring their conversion rate up from 7.28% so far in 2013 to the level of 13.93% reached in 2012.
"I thought it was important," said Chris Wondolowski of seeing Lenhart get his first goal of the season. "He has been playing well especially as of late, and he's looking sharp like his normal self. I thought it was a great finish."
The goal came about in as direct a method as exists in soccer. Justin Morrow kicked a long ball toward the center circle where it was met by an uncontested Alan Gordon. A flicked on header directed the ball beyond the flat-footed Rapids back line, and Lenhart, arguably in an offside position, raced after the loose ball.
"He ran the ball down and had Marvell (Wynne) coming down," described Wondolowski, "so he threw out the parachute and let him run by before ripping it upper 90. You can't take a shot much better than that."
Gordon, who was credited with an assist on Lenhart's goal, his second of the season, is himself still looking to tally his first goal of the season. However, the target striker knows the goals will come, and as long as he can contribute in some way, even coaching his teammates and how to finish, he can help the team recover from its slow start to the year.
"I told him to do that," quipped Gordon on how he influenced the Lenhart goal. "Yeah, I was yelling at him. I think I deserve another assist on that one - a verbal assist!"
Joking aside, Gordon, like Wondolowski, recognized the importance of Lenhart finally opening his 2013 scoring account.
"Lenny's got some moves," said Gordon. "He's a well rounded player. A lot of people don't give him enough credit, but that was a great goal."