By BRYAN ROBISON
After taking the lead twice in the final third of the match, FC Dallas thought they were going to escape Buck Shaw Stadium with a crucial three points. But Steven Lenhart denied the visiting squad both times, knocking in a pair of equalizing goals to deny FC Dallas of being just the second team to defeat the Earthquakes at home this season, as the thrilling match ended in a 3-3 draw.
Lenhart came on as a sub early in the second half, replacing an injured Mehdi Ballouchy. And much like he and the Earthquakes have done all season, he and the self-proclaimed "Goonies" lived up to their team motto- "Goonies never say die".
“We kept ourselves in the game," Lenhart said after the match. "We played some ugly soccer at times tonight, but we got the ball to bounce our way for the equalizer. [Alan] Gordon played a great ball back and I was lucky enough to beat the defender to it. That was one of the best team efforts of the season.”
That attitude was needed due to an FC Dallas squad that has held a similar attitude over the last few months, as the Texan club has threatened for a playoff spot after finding themselves at the bottom of the standings as recently as mid-July. After a first half that saw both clubs head into the locker rooms with a goal, the second half would bring twice as much action, both between the crossbars and between the two physical teams.
Just a week after breaking his nose, David Ferreira broke the game open with an assist to Blas Perez, who headed in his second goal of the game midway through the second half. Lenhart would respond for the Earthquakes just ten minutes later, as he knocked in an Alan Gordon pass to even it up at 2-2.
Then the game broke open again, this time as Ferreira was taken down by Sam Cronin on a breakaway by FC Dallas. Ferreira did not take kindly to the professional foul by Cronin, jumping up immediately and running over to shove Cronin. The shove escalated into midfield madness, as both teams came face-to-face. Despite a few extra shoves by other players, the scuffle ended up with just yellow cards for Cronin and Ferreira.
On the ensuing free kick, Dallas again took the lead, as Matt Hedges knocked in the third goal of his rookie season. With just minutes to go, Dallas was hoping to take a pivotal three points, which would even them up with Vancouver for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. However, as San Jose has done so many times this season, they made sure to have the final say.
With six minutes of stoppage time thanks in part to the dispute between Cronin and Ferreira, San Jose earned a corner in the closing minutes. After knocking it around the box for a while, Lenhart headed in the dagger, tying up the match yet again, and certainly disappointing a dejected FC Dallas squad.
The Lenhart goal in stoppage time was the ninth goal in second half stoppage time for San Jose this season, a Major League Soccer record.
“I am proud of the effort again, especially at the end of the game," said San Jose head coach Frank Yallop. "Tonight wasn’t one of our better games possession-wise. They made it difficult on us and they played well and pressed us, especially in the first half.
"We pushed the issue in the second half so I was happy with that. Overall, we shaded them on chances, but it was probably a fair result.”
With three matches left, FC Dallas remains two points behind Vancouver for fifth place in the Western Conference. They will travel to Los Angeles to take on Chivas USA next Sunday. Meanwhile, San Jose will look to continue their run towards the Supporters' Shield as they travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids next Saturday.
Here are the highlights:
What did you think of the match? Will San Jose hold off Sporting Kansas City for the Supporters' Shield? Will FC Dallas catch up to Vancouver for the final playoff spot?
Share your thoughts below.