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United vs San Jose: United defense crumbles in 5-3 loss to the Quakes

Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart both scored a pair of goals to lead the red-hot San Jose Earthquakes to a 5-3 mauling of D.C. United last night in San Jose, California. The loss snapped United’s seven match unbeaten run and vaulted the Quakes to the top spot in MLS, a point above idle Sporting Kansas City.

United went into the matchup knowing it was missing it’s top two central defenders in Emiliano Dudar and Dejan Jakovic through injury and it showed as head coach Ben Olsen was forced to shuffle the lineup by inserting Perry Kitchen into central defense and moving Marcelo Saragosa into Kitchen’s usual defensive midfield position.

For the first twenty minutes it seemed everything was going well for United as they took the lead on a fantastic strike from Dwayne De Rosario in the 8th minute. The next 15 minutes told a different story as the Quakes scored three times to wrestle control of the match. Lenhart and Wondolowski scored two minutes apart and then ten minutes later rookie defender Justin Morrow scored to seemingly put the match out of reach.

United came to life early in the second half and gave themselves an opportunity to complete a wonderful comeback with Daniel Woolard’s diving header goal in the 64th minute to cut the deficit to 3-2 but the Quakes responded twice in five minutes when Wondolowski (header) and Lenhart (deflection) scored again to put the match to rest. Hamdi Salihi did finally break his duck with a well taken goal in the 88th minute but it was too little too late at that point.

United had not yielded five goals in a road match since a 5-2 defeat against the Los Angeles Galaxy in September of 2008.

United now turns it’s attention to winless Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at 4pm in Toronto

Young defense crumbles as United get hammered in 4-2 loss to San Jose

Steven Lenhart was a one-man wrecking crew tonight as he scored 3 goals and had the assist on the other goal in San Jose’s surprisingly easy 4-2 tonight over D.C. United at RFK Stadium in front of 14, 105 frustrated fans. Andy Najar and Blake Brettschneider both scored their first goals of the season for United in the losing cause.

One should have known it would be a long night for the Black-and-Red when San Jose nearly scored inside the first minute. Lenhart, a physical match up nightmare for any MLS defender, was allowed to carry the ball to the top of the area and unleash a dipping shot that United goalkeeper Bill Hamid did well to touch over the bar. The ensuing two minutes were frantic in front of United’s goal but they home side came out of it unscathed.

United regained it’s composure and took the lead in the 13th minute. Josh Wolff’s pass made it through 3 San Jose defenders, all seemingly allowing the ball to pass through the area thinking someone would clear it, hitting Najar in stride for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead. The lead was short-lived as Lenhart finally made United’s young defense pay. Midfielder Khari Stephenson was allowed plenty of time and space through midfield when he pushed a ball through the back line for Lenhart. The burly striker easily slipped around Hamid and leveled the match at 1-1 just two minutes after United had taken the lead.

Seven minutes later and the visitors were up 2-1 thanks to some standing around by the United defensive corps. Lenhart out muscled Perry Kitchen to a high ball and laid the ball at Stephenson’s feet and his 22-yard drive was stopped by Hamid. However the rebound came straight back out and only Lenhart was aware enough to pounce and his rebound shot gave San Jose it’s first lead of the night. Even in spite of United’s admittedly poor defensive effort so far, they did well to level the match in the 34th minute.

Rookie defender Chris Korb threaded a ball to Brettschneider at the top of the area. With one touch Brettschneider reversed his course and sent a low left-footed blast past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch to draw United even at 2-2, a score that held up until halftime.

After the break things really didn’t change much for United as another defensive mistake led to the Quakes taking the game over for good. Substitute Simon Dawkins, who literally had stepped onto the field 30 seconds earlier, put San Jose up 3-2 thanks to his give-and-go with Lenhart, despite the fact that they were outnumbered 6-2 by United defenders. Chris Korb was lax in his pressure on Lenhart who slipped a ball past two United defenders who failed to track the schoolboy move provide by Dawkins who easily beat Hamid.

United’s frustration finally came to fruition in the 60th minute when Lenhart completed his hat trick thanks in part to impatience from United’s young goalkeeper.  A soft free kick was awarded along the left sideline and United made the initial clearance. The ball was put back into the box by defender Steven Beitashour but was done so with an accidental high blooping ball. Hamid figured with his teams soft defending so far in this game that he would take matters into his hands and intercept the high pass into the box. Unfortunately for Hamid he was slow to react and his attempt to punch the ball out seemed comical at best and Lenhart simply put his head on the ball and it trickled into the empty goal for the final score of 4-2 for San Jose. Had Hamid stayed on his line it would have been an easy ball to play with his feet, much less pick up with his hands but that was sort of the icing on the cake for this young United defense as they gave up 4 goals for the fourth time this young season.

United, coming off a fantastic 4-point West Coast trip in Portland and Los Angeles, failed to avail themselves the opportunity to bounce back into third place in the Eastern Conference. United now faces the daunting task of traveling West again, this time to the home of Real Salt Lake, a house of horrors in recent years for United.