In one of the more bizarre signings of the current winter transfer window — the silly season as it is often referred to -- is former San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart joining fourth-tier Japanese club FC Imabari.
In a press release issued on the club’s website proclaims, as translated from the original Japanese, the team is “pleased to inform you that Steven Lenhart (Stephen Renhart) has joined the top team of FC Imabari at this time.”
Lenhart spent six years with the Earthquakes, though injuries prevented him from making any appearances over the past two seasons, and he cleared the team’s roster at the completion of the 2016 season when his option was not picked up. The physical target forward had his best MLS campaign in 2012, when he scored 10 goals in helping San Jose capture the Supporters’ Shield.
In his new club bio, Lenhart says his favorite word is “fun,” which seems to encapsulate what his move to Japan must in some part be. Lenhart has always played by his own rules, and following his departure from MLS, an overseas adventure in Asia certainly fits with his personality.
Lenhart, a California native, started his professional career with the Columbus Crew, where his activities outside of soccer included skateboarding and knitting. When he joined the Quakes in 2011, he quickly found a home in nearby Santa Cruz, where his passion for surfing could be fulfilled. Lenny, as his friends and teammates called him, was the epitome of a California free spirit.
In nine seasons in MLS, Lenhart made a total of 135 appearances, scoring 33 goals and dishing out 12 assists. A knee injury that plagued him with the Earthquakes worsened in 2014, and he never progressed beyond the practice field after that time. Lenhart split time between Northern and Southern California during his efforts to recover, and he was the occasional attendee of Earthquakes games at Avaya Stadium.
No details of Lenhart’s contract with FC Imabari were announced in the press release.