When Steven Lenhart went down with a knee injury in the 77th minute of the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution on March 29, there was just one thought that went through my mind.
Uh-oh, not again.
Knee injuries are, of course, nothing new for the San Jose striker. Lenhart underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in both 2011 and 2012, and the lingering issue cost him playing time a season ago, as well. This time, Lenhart will be out for at least another three weeks as he recovers from a sprained left MCL.
The big question is who will step in for the sidelined 27-year-old on Sunday against the Columbus Crew?
On Friday, on KNBR 1050, Ted Ramey, who also serves as the club’s radio play-by-play announcer, asked color analyst Joe Cannon just that question. The long time MLS veteran assured Ramey that the addition of Alan Gordon to the starting lineup would be an “easy transition.”
Cannon pointed out that Gordon, the other “Bash Brother” is the kind of player that the Crew simply “can’t ignore.” The former Quakes’ keeper is absolutely correct. After all, Gordon played for the United States National Team as recently as last year.
In the wake of the injury, head coach Mark Watson also gave his support to Gordon, via Matt Schwab of the San Jose Mercury News.
“We’ll miss him, but as always with injuries it gives guys an opportunity. Alan Gordon, who has been working his way back to fitness, is pretty close.”
Like any good coach would, Watson focused on the positives. The opportunities that would be created for Gordon, and others like Adam Jahn.
Still, I’m concerned.
In the first three MLS league games of 2014, the Quakes have found the back of the net on just three occasions. If not for Lenhart’s relentless running, which set up Chris Wondolowski’s 69th minute strike against the Revolution, the Quakes almost certainly would have been shut out on that wet night at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.
So, the Quakes are already struggling to score, and now the squad’s primary target man is out. There’s no doubt that Lenhart and Gordon, who are both nightmare matchups for opposing central defenders, are similar players. However, Gordon is still working his way back from offseason foot surgery. So, there’s also no doubt that Lenhart will be missed.
On Sunday, when the Quakes take on the Crew at Buck Shaw at noon, the club will start to find out just how much.
Can the Quakes get by without Lenhart? Add your take in the comments section below.