The San Jose Earthquakes finally had Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart in the starting lineup together. It's uncertain when that will happen again.
Gordon will begin serving a league-mandated three-game suspension for "unacceptable and offensive language" on Sunday night when the reigning Supporters' Shield winners complete a home-and-home series against a Portland Timbers side trying to win a franchise-best third straight.
With just five goals through its first six games, San Jose (2-3-2) was hoping having Gordon and Lenhart in the starting XI alongside reigning MVP Chris Wondolowski would deliver some offense last Sunday in Portland. Instead, the Earthquakes were defeated 2-0 – their third shutout of the season. San Jose also lost Gordon in the 68th minute when he was sent off for a second yellow card, an elbow to the face of defender Mikael Silvestre. The forward, making his second start of the season following foot surgery, earlier was given a yellow for a foul on Diego Chara.
Gordon's biggest mistake, though, was uttering an anti-gay slur at Timbers midfielder Will Johnson, who netted his career high-tying third goal off a free kick in the 78th minute.
Johnson didn't want to address the issue following the game, but Earthquakes owner Dave Kaval and MLS Commissioner Don Garber did. Kaval said Gordon let down the team's fans and he will do whatever is necessary so the team can be "viewed as a beacon of diversity, community, and equality.''
The league announced on Tuesday that Gordon would serve a three-game suspension and be forced to attend diversity and sensitivity training.
Without Gordon, the Earthquakes will need to lean even more on Wondolowski, the team leader with three goals and Lenhart, who is coming off his second appearance following offseason knee surgery. San Jose, though, could have midfielder Shea Salinas (knee) back following a one-game absence and Marvin Chavez (knee) and Steven Beitashour (sports hernia) on the field for the first time in 2013.
"It would mean we have another great player (Beitashour) out there, especially attacking-wise," Wondolowski told MLS' official website. "He brings in a lot of crosses, and that's something we can use right now."
That's especially true with the Timbers shutting out their last two opponents and not surrendering a goal in 222 minutes. Donovan Ricketts, the starter all season, had yielded eight goals in the first four contests.
"Two games and two clean sheets, that was a part of our game that people were questioning - I wasn't," first-year coach Caleb Porter told the club's official website. "I knew we had it in us to be a very good defensive team and we've shown that the last two games. A big reason is we've been working hard in training to tighten things up."
Portland posted a franchise-record three straight clean sheets from Aug. 24-Sept. 16, 2011.
The Timbers, 2-0-4 versus San Jose, have played to draws in both games at Buck Shaw Stadium. In the most recent matchup in Santa Clara on Sept. 19, Wondolowski rallied the Earthquakes from two back with a pair of goals after the 72nd minute.