SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Steven Lenhart returned from a four-game injury absence to score in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time and lift the San Jose Earthquakes into a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
Lenhart fired home from 20 yards, hammering a ball chested down by Chris Wondolowski to finally break through against Chicago’s defense. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had kept the MLS’ most prolific offense at bay to that point, making 10 saves, including several spectacular stops.
The goal neutralized a 37th-minute strike from Chicago midfielder Chris Rolfe and kept alive San Jose’s streak of late-game performances. Sixteen of the Earthquakes’ league-leading 45 goals have come in the 76th minute or later.
San Jose (13-5-5) moved two points clear of Real Salt Lake atop the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.
Chicago (9-7-5) failed to win for the first time this season when scoring the first goal. The Fire had been 6-0-0 when taking a 1-0 lead. Chicago also dropped to 4-0-1 after holding a halftime lead.
Rolfe put Chicago ahead with relative ease, slipping between midfielder Sam Cronin and the Earthquakes’ back four to receive a pass from Patrick Nyarko. When San Jose’s defense failed to close down quickly enough, Rolfe put a well-placed kick to the far post from 23 yards, past the reach of Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.
Johnson made five saves in the first half, including a couple of outstanding ones to keep San Jose midfielder Simon Dawkins from putting the Quakes ahead.
San Jose had a great look at an equalizer in the 59th minute, when forward Alan Gordon rose up in Chicago’s box for an unimpeded header, but Johnson dove to his right and scooped the ball to safety.
Johnson tipped Dawkins’ drive over the crossbar in the 85th minute as the Earthquakes poured players forward.
Busch matched Johnson early on, parrying shots from Nyarko and Alex, and charged off his line to break up a dangerous counterattack by Logan Pause in the 79th minute to keep San Jose in the contest.
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