Martinez fires up United

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Before every game, D.C. United defender Gonzalo Martinez lights a small candle in his locker next to a statue of the Cuban saint Chango.

“It woos away the bad and covers my back,” Martinez said.

Whether it was mystical help or not, things went stunningly well for the 32-year-old Colombian as United came to life in the second half to earn a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes before 17,922 at RFK Stadium on Sunday.

Martinez scored the game-winner with an amazing strike to earn his first goal for the club. The win put United (6-7-1, 19 points) back in the playoff picture and extended the team’s unbeaten streak to five games.

“He gets himself into those spots a lot, and it’s nice to see him take the opportunity,” United coach Tom Soehn said.

Midfielder Clyde Simms ripped one of his trademark 25-yard drives to earn his second goal in as many games, and Brazilian ace Luciano Emilio extended his scoring streak to five games - the longest for any player in the league this season. But United looked flat at times, and goalie Zach Wells again made a blunder. United is still looking for its first shutout of the season.

Even with the dominant score line, Soehn was not happy.

“We didn’t show up today,” Soehn said. “We came in with the mentality that we had won the game, and that is discouraging for me because on the day I don’t think we were good. … We addressed it at halftime, and it got better. There are not too many days you can go in like we did and get a result.”

Both teams struggled in the 84-degree heat.

United almost had the lead in the 16th minute when Emilio hit the post. San Jose responded when Ivan Guerrero hit the crossbar.

Soehn replaced Marc Burch with Ryan Cordeiro on the left flank after the break. The deadlock soon was broken when Simms scored in the 50th minute.

“There was a lot of bodies in front of the goal, but I just shot it hard and low,” Simms said.

The lead vanished a minute later, however, when Wells failed to hold on to James Riley’s cross. The United goalie tried to reclaim the ball, but it bounced to John Cunliffe, who tapped it home.

United has not earned a shutout in 16 games going back to a scoreless tie against Chicago at RFK Stadium on Oct. 13, 2007.

United was back in the lead four minutes later when Martinez whipped in a blistering shot from 16 yards after speeding away from midfielder Ronnie O’Brien.

Devon McTavish preserved the lead when he raced back to clear Shea Salinas’ shot off the line after Wells had been beaten.

San Jose played the last seven minutes a man down after Riley was given a red card for a two-footed tackle on McTavish.

Then Emilio tallied his eighth goal of the season, assisted by Marcelo Gallardo, in the 88th minute to finish off the struggling Earthquakes (3-8-2, 11 points).

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