It’s been three-and-a-half years since he played in MLS, and just over a year since his comeback attempt in the fourth division of Japanese soccer, but former Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart never will be forgotten in San Jose. His smashmouth approach to soccer made him a fixture on the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners: loved by the home fans and loathed by the rest of the league. He was the epitome of the “Never say die!” Black-and-Blue Goonies.
Off the field, Lenhart was one of the most casual and down to earth players in MLS. While he shunned the attention of the press, he made time to talk to supporters, especially young fans, and was more than happy to pose for a selfie, flashing his trademark goofy grin. A knee injury derailed his career in 2014, and he last took the field in September that season — notably against nemesis LA Galaxy as a, fittingly, late substitute.
Lenhart remained under contract with the Quakes through 2016, though he never made an appearance in the last two years, as he tried to recover from his injury. His bio claims six seasons in San Jose, preceded by three years with the Columbus Crew. In those early seasons with the all-yellow Crew, Lenhart achieved fan-favorite status too, and the Southern California native always found a welcoming community in Ohio.
The attention on Columbus these days centers around owner Anthony Precourt’s attempt to move the club to Austin, Texas, deserting the city that lays claim to the first team in MLS history. Long-time Crew writer Steve Sirk, the de facto historian of the Columbus club, is part of the local effort to thwart the potential move. He recently caught up with Lenhart, the former Crew forward, to get his take on the current situation.
“It sucks that somebody doesn’t understand the culture and the way it brings a community together and has sustained a lot of people,” Lenhart said during the long interview with Sirk. “It sucks. Like, it would be so cool if he got some of the community together and the longtime supporters together and brainstormed ideas on how to make this thing better. Like, if he really gave it a good effort and made people feel involved and committed and honored that commitment for a while. Just make the Crew better!”
Sirk’s wide ranging conversation is a wonderful glimpse into the man known affectionately as “Lenny.” Since the end of his Quakes tenure, the player who brought to San Jose his special brand of blond-haired bedlam has been traveling the world. His famous signing with Japanese side FC Imabari just over a year ago came about as part of stop on his backpacking trip through the Asian country. When that endeavor ended prematurely, Lenhart took to his travels again, and lately has wandered through parts of Europe and the Middle East, with plans to visit India this summer.
With such a worldly itinerary, it may seem like Lenhart will never make it back to the States. He tells Sirk that he will definitely be in Columbus for the Crew’s home opener in March — Crewsmas as it is called — and he hopes that the city will still have a team in the future for him to come back to. As Quakes fans know, Lenny has a whole lot of late game heroics in him. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll be able to bring some of that Goonies mojo to the #SaveTheCrew movement.
Meanwhile, Lenhart is currently back in his native Southland, where current Earthquakes midfielder Tommy Thompson caught up with the legend for dinner. Lenny, to no one’s surprise, had a special message to share with all Quakes fans.
Lenhart is still that boy pic.twitter.com/0l8vELtlLw— the big boss man (@_Ross_94) February 17, 2018
Still poking the LA Galaxy beast, and throwing some shade on Seattle too: Steven Lenhart, never change.
If you would like more information on the #SaveTheCrew movement and how you can help, please visit www.SaveTheCrew.com