Crew forwards Lenhart, Garey enjoy healthy competition

Strikers rediscover scoring touch after struggling before break

OBETZ, Ohio – Steven Lenhart and Jason Garey are involved in a reality show called “Can you top this?” that the Crew hope will carry deep into the November sweeps.

The forwards have alternated goals in the past three matches, with Garey likely the next with a chance to return serve when the Crew play at Houston on Saturday.

“I think we should keep that going all season," Garey said. "That would be wonderful.”

The duo had come under scrutiny for their lack of production prior to the World Cup break when they combined for one goal in 11 matches.

Adding to the drama was scarcity of playing time for highly touted offseason acquisition Sergio Herrera. The Colombian striker was supposed to fill the gap when Alejandro Moreno went to Philadelphia in the expansion draft, but he played only one minute and was released last week.

That leaves the burden up top to Garey and Lenhart as well as Emilio Renteria, who has also played well on the flank.

Lenhart started and scored the winner in stoppage time against Rochester on June 29 and added another vs. Charleston on Tuesday. Granted, the Open Cup competition wasn’t at the level of MLS, but both goals were quality, including a sliding redirect of Duncan Oughton’s cross against the Battery.

“I could have gone in and banged it myself, but Steve busted his butt to get back post,” Oughton said. “You’ve got to reward a good run. It was a no-brainer to get it across to him.”

The relentless work rate is the trademark of both forwards.

“When Steve starts he wears down defenders, and I come in and have a little more space,” Garey said. “I try to do the same thing, wear down defenders then he or Emilio comes in and really causes problems.”

Garey got the deciding goal against Chicago last Saturday with a determined run down the middle and a diving header off Eddie Gaven’s assist. He has started the past two league games.

“We both have a strong work ethic, and we want the team to do well,” Lenhart said. “We also want each other to do well. I’m in his camp. I want him to score every time he’s on the field. It means our team is doing well.”

Coach Robert Warzycha has full confidence in each, even when they aren’t scoring.

“Sometimes you have a forward that is doing a good job,” he said. “He doesn’t score a goal, but he does enough running and other stuff that the other guys get open. That’s why sometimes a forward isn’t scoring goals, but we keep him on the field.

“Every time they step on the field they give 100 percent,” he added. “Sometimes they don’t score the goals, but the attitude is good.”

However, his life would be easier if they regularly found the back of the net.

“You can’t go 15 games without a goal,” Warzycha said. “You don’t have to score to be on the field to play but for only one or two games. A forward has to score goals.”

Lenhart said he’s never wavered in his abilities, even though it’s been May 1 at Seattle since his lone MLS goal this season.

“I can’t have my confidence based on whether I’m scoring or not,” he said. “Obviously I want to score and I want to put myself in position to score but showing up every day and putting in the hard work, that’s the stuff that builds my confidence.”

As for any controversy as to who should start? Forget about it.

“We have a good relationship,” Garey said. “Whichever of us is in there is going to do a good job, and if he gets tired, the next guy is going to come in and be even more of a problem.

“We have a great time playing together. Right now we’re not playing together, but we’re still getting results. You can’t argue with getting results no matter who’s playing.”