Substitute Steven Lenhart’s stoppage time goal ended the Union’s unbeaten streak at three as the Western Conference-leading San Jose Earthquakes stole three points in a 2-1 win at PPL Park on Saturday night.
It was a busy 30 minutes for Lenhart, who also broke the scoreless deadlock in the 76th minute. Danny Mwanga had set up Gabriel Gomez for the Union’s equalizer in the 83rd minute, but it was not enough as Lenhart evaded the attention of Danny Califf and Sheanon Williams to nod home Marvin Chavez’s cross with only seconds left to play.
Suspensions to Gabriel Farfan and Keon Daniel, along with an injury to Brian Carroll, forced stand-in manager John Hackworth into three changes, with captain Danny Califf returning to the lineup, pushing Williams wide to the unfamiliar left side of defense. In midfield, Amobi Okugo stepped in for Carroll, and Hoffenheim loanee Kai Herdling made his first appearance for the Union as he looked to provide the offensive spark the Union so sorely have been lacking in 2012.
But in the first half, it was one-way traffic, with San Jose enjoying the majority of the possession and territory, while the Union were content to sit deep and absorb pressure. Zac MacMath had to be sharp in the sixth minute with the ball falling to Rafael Baca, whose shot MacMath did well to beat away. The Union were already looking stretched as Justin Morrow and Simon Dawkins poured forward, cranking up the pressure on rookie Ray Gaddis on the right while Rafael Baca and Steven Beitashour gave Williams all he could handle on the left.
In the middle of the park, Califf, Okugo and Carlos Valdes pressed hard to keep tabs on danger man Chris Wondolowski and Khari Stephenson. The Earthquakes were happy to knock the ball around the center of the park with Tressor Moreno dictating play, as Lionard Pajoy and the Union midfield allowed far too much time to Moreno and fellow-holder Sam Cronin.
With possession in short supply, the Union used their infrequent attacking forays to drive at San Jose with direct runs from Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu and Herdling. These yielded little reward for the home team as the attacking midfielders failed to link up with Lionard Pajoy, who was well looked after by Jason Hernandez and Ike Opara.
Still, in a half short on clear cut chances, it was the Union who managed the best opportunity, as Amobi Okugo won the ball and found Gabriel Gomez driving forward to begin the move in the 30th minute. Noticing Jon Busch well off his line, Michael Farfan took a touch and sent a lofted effort skimming off the cross-bar, nearly breaking the deadlock.
San Jose came out in the second half still in the ascendancy, but higher pressure from the Union helped grow into the second half, with Okugo moving higher to help Gomez spread the field and win ball in midfield. The increased pressure and possession nearly paid dividends quickly as the Union advanced, finding Lionard Pajoy who won the corner in the 54th minute. Kai Herdling’s smart, near-post run released him for a free header which he guided agonizingly wide of the post as the Union looked to charge into the lead.
But with the Union looking to take over the match, San Jose manager Frank Yallop responded with an aggressive double-substitution, sacrificing Moreno and Cronin for the speedy Marvin Chavez and Lenhart, who had terrorized the Union during his spell playing for Columbus.
Even with the increased threat from the Earthquakes, the Union continued to find opportunities going forward, but Pajoy and Jack McInerney, who came on for Herdling, were wasteful with their chances. Having failed to put San Jose to the sword, the substitutes began to impose themselves as Chavez’s pace opened space on the wings, and Lenhart’s physicality immediately led to confrontations with both Califf and Valdes.
Despite this influence, there were still more chances for the Union as Okugo’s delicate flick released Pajoy in alone on Busch, but the big Colombian spurned the chance without forcing a save from the keeper. Next, Freddy Adu found space at the top of the box, powering a strong, goal-bound effort that Busch did well to parry. It was the Union’s first shot on target of the night.
Pajoy’s missed chance would be his last contribution as he was replaced by Danny Mwanga in the 75th minute. But no sooner had the Union no.10 stepped on the pitch than MacMath was pulling the ball out of his own net, as Lenhart knifed inside Williams and powered a header home, converting on a surging run from Marvin Chavez.
Despite their early dominance, the goal seemed to come against the run of play as the Union looked the more dangerous in the second half. Down a goal, they continued to press forward, and in the 83rd minute, the Union had their equalizer. With Williams lofting the ball into the danger area, Mwanga controlled but could not find a shooting angle. Instead, Mwanga laid off delicately to Gabriel Gomez, who powered a fierce drive into the bottom corner of Busch’s net, setting off massive celebrations as Gomez hurdled the signage to grab the Panamanian flag (a celebration which somehow went unpunished).
But it was a premature party at PPL Park, and the goal would not be enough. Lenhart’s physical dominance should have had the Earthquakes in front on 89 minutes when he squared a diving header for Opara to tap home. Fortunately for the Union faithful, the assistant referee bungled the call, flagging Opara offside, despite Lenhart’s header traveling backwards to the center back’s foot, letting the Union off the hook temporarily.
Ultimately, it would not matter as Chavez again found space in stoppage time, this time on his right wing and swung the deadly ball in for Lenhart, who buried his chance and the Union just inside the far post.
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Raymon Gaddis (Cristhian Hernandez ’82) ; Michael Farfan, Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Gomez, Kai Herdling (Jack McInerney ’63), Freddy Adu; Lionard Pajoy (Danny Mwanga ’75)
Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Josue Martinez, Zach Pfeffer, Chris Albright
San Jose Earthquakes
Jon Busch; Justin Morrow, Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara, Steven Beitashour; Sam Cronin (Steven Lenhart ’60), Rafael Baca, Tressor Moreno (Marvin Chavez ’60), Simon Dawkins; Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski
Unused substitutes: David Bingham, Brad Ring, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Sam Garza, Sercan Guvenisik
76 – San Jose: Steven Lenhart (Marvin Chavez)
83 – Philadelphia: Gabriel Gomez (Danny Mwanga)
90+3 – San Jose: Steven Lenhart (Marvin Chavez)
San Jose Earthquakes
On 3 points
“I’m pleased with the three points. To give up a goal pretty late in the game to come back and score the winner, especially away from home, is very good. So we’re happy. Very pleased for Steven Lenhart.”
“Marvin and Lenny got pace and power. And I think that we did it about 56-57th minute in the game. At least enough time to get into the game and the rhythm. If you do it with 10 minutes to go, it never really works I don’t think. So we wanted to give them more time to get into the game. With Marvin’s pace and Lenny’s power in the box it changed the game for us. I thought overall especially first half I thought we moved the ball well and created nice chances without taking any of them which was frustrating. I think we just needed to change the game up a little bit.”
On being in first place and making aggressive substitutions
“I just felt that we had to go and win the game. If we had kept what we were doing I think we probably would have conceded a goal and probably not scored tonight. That’s my opinion. I thought we needed to shake it up. I thought the players that came off… played very well, but we needed a change and that little bit, again, pace and power in the end.”
On a road win
“Any win’s good. Whether you take one on the road or at home. Obviously when you’re in front of your home fans you want to win, but we don’t look at them any differently. It’s not against a Western opponent which is a big deal now. East and West is working out to be- you definitely want to not lose to your Western opponents. And whenever you can pick up 3 points on the road against whoever it is always good for any club.”
What the subs did
“Wasn’t moving the ball like I wanted us to. We needed to stretch them. As soon as Marvin came on, he stretched them. I think Lenny is such a force in the box. That was the difference to be honest. That was the difference in the game. You can’t fault Philadelphia. I thought they played well. He’s hard to handle in the box. He’s very good in the air. He’s tough.”
Goalkeeper Jon Busch: “I thought we played very well. To get the three points is huge. At the end of it when they tie it up, Philly’s a good team, you can’t take nothing away from them. They tie it up, you know they’re going to make a push obviously after we get our goal again. We gave up a goal, we’re disappointed with that, but at the end of it you also have to be realistic. We’re on the road, and our philosophy was ‘Hey, let’s at least get one’”
“The flow of the game allowed us to go forward, in other games when it’s 1-1 late in the game, you’re like ‘Okay, let’s just get out of there’. Worst comes to worst we get out 1-1, we get that road point, that’s big down the line, but getting those two extra points is even bigger”
“The character is huge, we’ve proven this so far this year time and time again. Doesn’t matter where we go. The guys just believe in what we’re doing this year, and it’s just awesome to watch.”
Forward Steven Lenhart: “The team has been proving ourselves this season. And I think just the togetherness and the unity of the team is very clear, just by the way we play.”
“Whether you start, or whether you come in, you’re still competing and trying to score.”
“We have a team full of winners, man. We stuck it out, shows the character of our team.”
“I think Marvin creates a smart wherever he is on the field, he just put a good ball across. I didn’t have to do much. I just threw my body in there.”
Forward Chris Wondolowski:
“On whether it feels weird not scoring for a change: “I’m alright with that. Lenhart has been doing great all this year. I’m glad to see him get a couple, he deserves it. He’s put so much work, so might fight, he’s such a good guy and a good player to play with.”
“We looked at each other when they scored, we knew we were going to give it to the last second. After they scored I’m not sure they got the ball over half-field. It was just us pushing trying to get the winner. It’s huge for us, and again it just shows our demeanor and our fight this year.”
“I thought we did a great job at keeping possession. We’re pretty good at staying patient and not getting too antsy. A lot of times you can, you can start getting ahead of yourselves, taking shots from 40 yards out, or start getting frustrated with yourself and losing possessions. It was a great show of patience, we knew it was going to take a while to break down their team, they have a great team, especially a great defense.”
“It was really tough loss to lose a game like that in injury time after fighting so hard to come back and equalizing. The team in the locker room is pretty gutted at the moment. It’s just a tough one. We really feel like we deserved at least a point out of that game, in every way possible. Tough for us. Very disappointing. But we have to learn from it, come back, and be stronger. San Jose, we have to give them full credit. They’re great team. There is a reason why they are the number one team in the West right now and maybe perhaps the league. But at the same time I think we showed that we’re a team that’s good as any in this league, especially in the second half. We made some adjustments and I thought we had the game. Before they scored the first goal I thought it was our game to get the three points out of. It changed after their first goal. We did a great job to get an equalizer but then you think you just have to manage those final ten minutes.”
On two goals conceded
“The first one begins with a turnover. If there is one area we weren’t very good tonight it was in turnovers that I don’t think were forced by San Jose. In the first half we definitely turned the ball over too much. In this case, on the first goal, we had the ball. We could have played out of the back fairly easy. Not much pressure on us, we turn the ball over. We have six guys going forward and we have to go back and defend it. Still thought we had time to recover really well on the turnover, and Lenhart, - that guy’s a Union killer, isn’t he. Every time he comes here he scores goal. So I don’t mean to make light of that…. we think we defend those and in that case we didn’t. He showed why he’s so dangerous.”
“I thought in the second half we had the better of the play. Especially after the first five to seven minutes of the second half. The first half, they’re a very good team. They attacked in very different ways. We did not keep the ball like the wall we wanted. We forced some balls into spots where we didn’t want to take the game to. From that end we were a little more reserved [offensively]. We were dropped a little far off. We made adjustments in the locker room at half time, came out and put them under more pressure in the second half and I think that changed the game. But still in the first half, you’re playing one of the best teams in the league and we didn’t give them many chances. We defended a lot, didn’t possess the ball when should have. But we felt good about ourselves at halftime because we knew that if we could get more numbers forward and take our line a little farther in the second half that we would have some opportunities.”
On Herdling and McInerney
“Kai is pretty new to us and I thought he did a really good job for a debut… We started him on the left and then made an adjustment and then brought him over to the right. But I think he contributed really well tonight and allowed us to get to a point in the game where we could be successful. We brought on Jack McInerney and went to 2-4 in that stretch. I liked our chances at that point. I liked the things Jack did coming into the game. Going back to Kai, valuable start and minutes for him. He’s a good addition to our game.”
“Sheanon’s an all-arounder. He’s playing all across the backline. I will say that I don’t think Sheanon will tell you that his favorite spot is right back. He’s obviously a little better from the right and has done great in the last games a center back. He’s just got a great mentality and he’ll do whatever you ask him to do.”
On whether he was frustrated seeing his shutout streak end:
“No, not really worried about that. I’m more worried about not getting the result tonight; that was the most frustrating thing.”
On the team’s defense:
“I thought we did a good job of not letting them get balls in from the wing, but those two crosses at the end still killed us.”
On having Danny Califf back:
“It was good, Danny played really well I thought. Him and Carlos did really well together and they’re just going to have to continue to build on their chemistry together.”
On the Union’s offensive cohesion:
“I don’t think there’s necessarily a disconnection between the midfield and forwards, but I think we need to trust each other a little more when moving the ball between the middle and the forwards.”
On not allowing Wondolowski to score:
“That was one positive tonight. He seems to be scoring against everyone lately, so we’re happy about keeping him in check. He’s very good at moving off the ball and that was one thing we were conscious of going into tonight. So we were happy about how we defended him.”
On defending often:
“When you defend for 90 minutes you get tired, and when you get tired, mistakes happen. So if we’re going to be successful over the long haul this season, we’re going to have to establish longer possession and make the other team run, because we’re running a lot right now.”
On earning his first start:
“It felt good, unfortunately it came in a loss, and you have to put the team’s success ahead of your individual performance. But I thought I did well and want to build on it going forward.”
On the game’s result:
“I think that the most important thing today was winning. We lacked attitude sometimes. But the situation we were, the pressure that we felt from the people, and the necessity to win encouraged us to get these results. We were able to meet our objectives and get those three points.”
On what supporters can expect from the team:
“I think that this is what we need right now. We needed a victory to start showing who we really are. We have had good matches but unfortunately, we haven’t had the best results. But we have a team that knows how to play soccer, a team with young players, a team with a lot of experience, and good dynamic. Every day, we are getting along better and people can expect this team to only get better.”
“Yes I think that we lost a match that we could’ve tied as everybody knows. I think that we should’ve done more in the match anyway. We fell short and when we play that way this things tend to happen. Sometimes soccer gives and sometimes it takes. The minute we had to be more concentrated we lost that possibility of getting a point.”
“It’s lack of confidence in ourselves. At the beginning of the season we didn’t have a good start and we committed a lot of errors with the ball and that cost us points that today keep us at the bottom of the table. And obviously we don’t want to make the same mistakes again that’s why we are lacking confidence with the ball. Everybody is trying to do whatever they can without risking. And sometimes in soccer you have to take this risks in order to get points.”
“It’s definitely sad. The team didn’t do what we worked on this week. We faced a good team that has proven their position in the west. We know that we have to improve a lot of things. We have a great team, great players, we work well but we are lacking attitude and we have to respect our fans that always come to support the team.”
“More than anything is that the opposing team played really well and played really well on the ball defensively. They have players that can do a lot and we felt their pressure and there was a disadvantage. Our team was disorganized a little. We looked for the tie, we got the tie, but unfortunately on the last minute we gave up a goal that we knew we missed. We can’t give up these types of plays especially because we already had a point for us.”
“It’s a role that I’m being asked to do in the system we are playing, a 4-1-4-1. I try to pressure in the attack being a defensive presence for Lionard, who has been doing a great job and is giving a lot. He runs all over the place, works really hard for the team and I hope that he can score a goal soon because he truly deserves it.”
“I come to work, I come to help, I came to do my job as a part of the team. I feel good because I honestly like the team aspect over the individual and I’m one of those that gives everything and I try to give my best. I try to do what’s best for the team and if now they’re asking me to be a little bit more forward, I’ll try to give my best to reflect the work for the Union and my teammates.”