CHESTER, Pa. – The way Steven Lenhart navigated the Philadelphia defense for his first two-goal game of his three-year MLS career, he should have no trouble shooting the rapids this weekend.
Lenhart subbed for the ill (stomach) Jason Garey and scored twice, including the winner in the 50th minute as the Crew downed the expansion Union 2-1 in the first meeting Thursday before a crowd of 18,001 in PPL Park. Both goals came off diving headers to give him three in the past two games and four for the season.
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“I think it was the most fun [I’ve had]", he said. “My brother and one of my best friends were here tonight.”
With the Crew not playing again until Aug. 14 at Real Salt Lake, the team will not resume training until Tuesday as it takes advantage of its last open weekend of the season.
Lenhart is going to use the time to drive back to Ohio with a camping trip in Ohiopyle, Pa., to go whitewater rafting in the Youghiogheny River.
“It’s going to be pretty insane,” he said.
The ride will be more enjoyable after the Crew (11-4-4, 37 points) broke a 0-2-2 mark on the road, including a 3-1 loss Saturday vs. Chivas USA.
“It feels real good for us to come back and play as a team,” midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo said. “We believed in ourselves and went for the win.”
Lenhart replaced Garey in the 27th to add to an already jumbled lineup. Missing the game were midfielders Eddie Gaven (concussion) and Robbie Rogers (left knee) and defender Gino Padula (left knee).
The match was scoreless when Lenhart scored in minute 43 off another superb restart ball from Guillermo Barros Schelotto. After Ekpo was fouled 35 yards away from goal, Schelotto sent a flighted ball deep into the box for a diving header by Lenhart.
“Steve did a really good job of getting there for the ball,” Schelotto said.
But for the second game in a row, the Crew were haunted by a late first-half goal when Sebastian Le Toux converted a penalty in the third minute of extra time after being fouled by Frankie Hejduk.
Although William Hesmer guessed correctly, he missed the shot by inches as it went into the lower right corner. It was the first penalty called on the Crew since the second game of the season at FC Dallas.
“The call wasn’t too sharp,” Ekpo said. “We didn’t let that goal affect us. We know we can do better than that. We put that behind us knowing we were playing against 11 men and the ref. It worked out good for us.”
Last Saturday, Blair Gavin took advantage of a turnover with a goal in the 45th minute and 2-0 Chivas USA lead. The Crew never recovered and lost 3-1.
“We battled with them the whole first half,” Lenhart said. “The Chivas game was a little bit different in that sense. We were still in the game tonight. We were up a goal this time. The second half we did a good job of competing, competing.”
Lenhart gave the Crew the lead off a leading ball by Emilio Renteria from the right flank. Once again, Lenhart showed no regard for his body by going headfirst for the cross.
“Sometimes somebody comes in and shows exactly why he should be on the field,” coach Robert Warzycha said of Lenhart. “When Stevie was on the field he scored two goals for us. The goals he scored were huge. It’s not only the service [to him]. He made great runs also three or four times.”
Schelotto was pivotal on that play as well although he did not get an assist. He took a pass on the ground from Hejduk and sprung Renteria.
“I saw Emilio on the line,” Schelotto said. “When the ball was coming from Frankie, I saw the defense go into the middle and I think that Emilio need the ball.”
The Crew moved to within three points of Los Angeles for the overall lead and a shot at an unprecedented third straight Supporters’ Shield.
They also head to Utah next week trying to end RSL’s 20-match regular-season home unbeaten streak that is two shy of the league marks set by the Crew in 2008-09.
“We want to win there,” Schelotto said.