The Black & Gold will attempt to win its second straight match against a familiar face on Saturday in San Jose as former Crew striker Steven Lenhart will line up alongside Chris Wondolowski in the Earthquake's starting XI. Lenhart was instumental in Columbus' 2008 MLS Cup run with his stoppage time equalizer against Kansas City in the Eastern Conference semifinal. Not only that, but the then-rookie helped Danny O'Rourke make the transition to playing next to Chad Marshall in central defense.
"I tell this to everybody: (Lenhart) made the games easy because he didn't take any breaks during practice," the interim captain said. "He was physical and you always had to be on top of your game. He definitely made me a better player."
When the Crew and Earthquakes meet up on Saturday, it will be just like old times though Lenhart will be wearing San Jose black instead of Columbus Gold.
"When I see him, for sure, it'll be like nothing's changed," Crew keeper Andy Gruenebaum said. "He's just in a different jersey."
Though both Gruenebaum and O'Rourke loved playing with Lenhart, the Crew veterans admit that it will be difficult facing the forward's gritty style of play. Lenhart has four goals on the season and has helped Chris Wondolowski's total of 11 goals by drawing attention from opposing defenders.
"I liked him when he was on our team. It's going to be a pain to play against him," Gruenebaum said. "I respect his game a lot. He goes out there and has fun. He's a pest, he's buzzing everywhere. He's gonna want everything, but we've got to find a way to shut him down. He's a great player."
"He's relentless," O' Rourke added. "He has a defender's mentality playing forward."
While the Crew will do everything it can to shut down Lenhart and his strike partner Wondolowski for three points on Saturday night, Gruenebaum and O'Rourke will go back to being friends with Lenhart once the final whistle blows.
"It's just a friendly competition. Hopefully I'll get in a couple of tackles and a couple hugs after the game," O'Rourke said. "(Lenhart) is a great guy that comes from a great family."
"He's a good person and a good player, an all-around good dude," Gruenebaum echoed.