All three goals came within a three minute span in the first half, with Lenhart putting the Quakes on top in the 18th, RSL MF Javier Morales equalizing in the 19th and Lenhart scoring the winner in the 21st.
“It’s a difficult thing," said head coach Jason Kreis. "I’m not going to fault the effort of the group, because I think they worked extremely hard to break down a team that sat their players extremely defensively tonight.”
Lenhart gave San Jose the lead in the 18th minute. MF Cordell Cato collected a ball on the right flank, whipping a ball in that Lenhart got on the end of at the top right corner of the six yard box. RSL GK Nick Rimando had no chance to stop the ensuing header, which Lenhart powered home inside the near post.
“We talked about it all year about how we have to be better at set pieces, but we watched the tape," said defender Nat Borchers. "They were taking early set pieces, and I hold my hand up for both of those goals. I was marking Lenhart. He just got inside of me both times. A guy like that in the box is going to bury his chances. We just couldn’t get out.”
RSL responded immediately, with Morales finishing Captain Kyle Beckerman’s corner kick to knot things at 1-1 in the 19th minute. Beckerman served in an in swinging ball from the right corner that flew just over a gaggle of players at the near post and fell to an unmarked Morales at the top of the six. The Argentine playmaker took advantage of the opportunity, finishing his left-footer into the top left corner with his first touch.
Things didn’t stay level for long, though, as Lenhart scored the game’s third goal in three minutes to put San Jose up 2-1 in the 21st. MF Shea Salinas served a set piece in from the left side, finding Lenhart at the right post for a nearly identical finish to his first goal.
“I think it’s one of those situations where we have all the momentum, until San Joes gets one break – one cross into the box to an unmarked Lenhart," said Kreis. "I think that we probably feel a bit bad for ourselves, but then we score a goal on a corner kick with Morales. All the momentum should be in our favor, then it comes to a deadball situation where we don’t do a good enough job. Because of that sort of flip-flop, I think now our guys are really hanging their heads. That’s not good enough.”
RSL controlled much of the rest of the opening frame, keeping the ball in San Jose’s defensive third for long stretches and frequently pushing the ball out wide for crosses – and corners – into the box. Unfortunately, the Claret-and-Cobalt couldn’t quite break down San Jose’s compact defense and headed into the half down a goal.
Rimando made a big stop in the 49th minute to keep RSL within one. San Jose DF Jordan Stewart curled a cross in from the left flank, finding FW Chris Wondolowski at the penalty spot. The 2012 MLS Budweiser Golden Boot Winner directed his header on frame, forcing Rimando to palm the ball over the bar with a fine reflex save.
Claret-and-Cobalt Head Coach Jason Kreis injected the RSL attack with a bit of new blood in the 59th minute, bringing MF Luis Gil on for MF Khari Stephenson and FW Olmes Garcia on for FW Devon Sandoval.
Despite RSL continuing to control possession, it was the Earthquakes that had the next chance, nearly doubling their advantage off of a counterattack in the 67th minute. MF Rafael Baca picked up a loose ball just inside his own half and took off on the break, racing down the right side for a 2-v-1 with Wondolowski against RSL DF Chris Wingert. Wingert did a fine job of playing both Baca and Wondolowski, closing Baca down at just the right moment to prevent him from finding Wondolowski and to force him into a shot from a tight angle that Rimando saved.
RSL really started to push following the Baca chance, nearly equalizing through Wingert in the 73rd minute. The veteran left back collected a lay off at the top of the box, taking a touch and lacing a right-footer just wide of the left post from 20 yards out.
The Claret-and-Cobalt had another good look at an equalizer in the 82nd. Morales slipped substitute FW Robbie Findley through on the left side, allowing the speedy striker to run onto the ball just inside the area before taking a touch and whizzing a 12-yard left footer just wide of the near post upper 90.
RSL desperately searched for an equalizer in the game’s dying moments, but Findley’s near miss was the team’s last good opportunity. The RSL first-team will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 28, travelling north of the border to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC at 5:00 p.m.