There used to be a time when D.C. United scored first, they most likely won that match. This is no longer the case as the San Jose Earthquakes scored twice in the second half to come from behind to beat United 2-1 at RFK Stadium this afternoon in front of 14, 375 disappointed fans. The loss, United’s second consecutive home loss in MLS, keeps United two points out of the playoff race. A win today would have seen the Black and Red leapfrog three teams into a comfortable position with three matches remaining in the season.
After going the first 11 MLS home matches without a loss this season, United has now coughed up two poor losses at the most important time of the season. Jaime Moreno scored a fantastic goal in the 26th minute to give the home side a deserved lead. However, as has been the case numerous times this season, United could not add to their lead and got to halftime holding the 1-0 margin. The goal came about from some nice and not often seen flank play. Ben Olsen received a ball on the left flank in the 26th minute and held possession and waited for the overlapping run from Chris Pontius. The rookie sent in a left-footed one-timer that Moreno expertly controlled with his right foot and then unleashed a left-footed blast underneath former United goalkeeper Andrew Webber. The goal was the Bolivian’s 129 goal, the all-time leader in MLS.
The second half saw the visitors come flying out of the gate and they should have tied the match in the 5oth minute when Ryan Johnson headed home a goal in a challenge with United goalkeeper Josh Wicks. Referee Baldomero Toledo inexplicably blew the play dead immediately when he saw Wicks crumple to the ground. Wicks left the match with an injury to his left shoulder and was replaced by Milos Kocic. It didn’t take long for the energized Quakes to finally equalize. In the 58th minute, United defender Julius James fouled Ryan Johnson 20 yards in front of goal with a bear hug. El Salvador’s National Team captain Ramon Sanchez stepped up and curled a beautiful free-kick into the near post upper 90 that gave Kocic no chance. San Jose increased their lead in the 73rd minute on a very dodgy piece of defending by Marc Burch. Burch, returning to the lineup after being out for three weeks, decided to try and body the ball off of onrushing San Jose attacker Arturo Alvarez. The speedy Salvadoran-American easily stripped the ball from Burch and his shot was deflected by Clyde Simms off the crossbar. The rebound found the head of the diving Ryan Johnson who easily dispatched the ball into the empty net to give the Quakes the game-winning goal.
United finally awoke from their second half slumber and should have equalized and gone ahead on numerous occasions. However, as has been the case too often this season, United couldn’t find the target when it mattered. Chris Pontius had two golden chances to equalize. In the 81st minute he latched onto a Santino Quaranta cross and headed straight into the ground and over the bar. Had he simply directed it to the far post, Webber would have had no chance at it. Just one minute later Pontius again was denied when his bicycle kick was cleared off the line by Ramiro Corrales. Finally in the 89th minute substitute Boyzzz Khumalo had his shot carom off the top of the crossbar and United was done with their chances at getting any points in this match.
The loss is a crippling blow for the Black and Red as they lost a glorious opportunity to jump into prime playoff positioning. United, who was off from league play last weekend, saw a number of other results in the league over the past two weeks go in favor of United and set them up with this great opportunity. It wasn’t to be and now United finds themselves in a position to almost have to win their last three matches to even have a chance at making the playoffs. Next up for United is their 5th match in group play for the CONCACAF Champions League this Wednesday against San Juan Jebloteh. A win in that match combined with a loss by Marathon against group leaders Toluca will guarantee United passage into the knockout phase next Spring.
United’s next league match is against fellow playoff hopefuls Chivas USA at RFK Stadium next Saturday evening.