Frank Yallop defends Steven Lenhart. No, seriously!

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I like San Jose Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop, and I respect the work he’s done at Buck Shaw Stadium this year.

Not only is his club the lead dog in the Supporters Shield race, they play an entertaining style.

But Yallop has this one wrong.

What he said following Saturday’s tussle at Stade Saputo, where striker Steven Lenhart was sent off against Montreal for his role in an early altercation.

I’m not sure why Lenhart was sent off.  He seems to be singled out every game we play. It’s starting to get to me now.

“He goes for the ball; he plays hard, which he should do as a center forward that’s brave. It seems like he’s getting cards and red cards that he doesn’t deserve. That changed the game for us.”

Why is he being singled out? Surely, Yallop is playing a little political possum on this one. Because a coach of Yallop’s experience knows exactly why Lenhart (pictured above, on top of the scrap) gets extra attention from the men in the middle, and deservedly so. Heck, even I know that! And Yallop has coached about 300 more MLS games than I have.

Lenhart gets singled out because he deserves singling out. He is the league’s most active agitator. He works in “agitation” the way celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse works in “Bam!”

When Lenhart is around, there’s rarely an on-field coming together that doesn’t include a kick-out, a swinging hand, a clumsy stomp on the foot, a shirt pull and heaven knows what else that might be going on in the human blender of competitive aggression.

He’s a Tasmanian devil, a willing accelerant when every MLS match is a hot-tempered, highly unstable mix of flammables anyway. He’s the guy everyone detests playing against – but that everyone likes to have on his team.

Sequences involving Lenhart are less soccer than MMA. (At the international level, by the way, he’d have a booking within 10 minutes – and the referee would probably have one finger on the red 10 minutes from there.)

But, if Yallop truly seeks greater knowledge here, if he desires enlightenment regarding the American fan psyche on this one, he can just turn to the answer web. Simply  Google “Steven Lenhart” and “hate.”  I did.  First thing I found was this thoughtful look at both sides of the Lenhart beef from No Short Corners.

You can find a lot worse from there, some with very naughty words.

By the way, Lenhart isn’t exactly “singled out” for cards. Not statistically speaking. He is one of 12 MLS players with at least seven cautions.