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Crayton’s gaffe jeopardizes playoff hopes

- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2008

A dreadful error by goalie Louis Crayton may have doomed D.C. United's playoffs hopes.

Crayton handed Chivas USA a first-half goal when he failed to control a simple back pass. Former United forward Alecko Eskandarian took advantage of the mistake to give Chivas the lead and then contributed two more goals in the second half as United fell 3-0 at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.

"There are no words to describe my feelings," Crayton said. "This is the worst day in my career. I've never made any mistake like this and I feel responsible for letting my team down. I'm very sorry for what went wrong today. We came into this game prepared mentally and physically and had a chance to redeem ourselves."

It was Chivas USA's first win at RFK in four attempts and left United (10-14-3, 33 points) winless in eight matches in all competitions (0-7-1). Sasha Victorine and Dejair tallied Chivas' other two goals.

United's playoff hopes now hang by a thread. The club has three league games left to save its season, but two of those matches are trips to the top two teams in the league, the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo.

Not even the return of playmaking midfielder Marcelo Gallardo, who has missed a third of United's games because of injury, could inspire the home team as it tried to fight back.

Back on the field for the first time since Sept. 6 and wearing the captain's armband, Gallardo tried his best to lift struggling United.

United started with a 3-5-2 formation, with Thabiso Khumalo and Santino Quaranta replacing United's two top goal scorers, Jaime Moreno (suspension) and Luciano Emilio (hamstring). Defensive midfielders Clyde Simms and Joe Vide played behind Gallardo, while Devon McTavish was benched - a first - as United went with a three-man back line. McTavish replaced Fred (hamstring) in the 51st minute.

A number of early runs at goal by Gallardo came to nothing, perhaps revealing a lack of readiness.

"We needed him tonight," United coach Tom Soehn said of Gallardo. "He probably pushed himself further than he had to and I know he's got an injury along with it now."

Gallardo worked himself into the game by setting up Fred with a cross in the 13th minute, but the Brazilian did little with the effort.

United kept the ball on the ground and strung passes together but failed to get shots on goal. Then it all went wrong in the 35th minute as Crayton gave a goal to the visitors.

The Liberian goalie, whom United signed in August to replace Zach Wells, failed to deal with a back pass from defender Gonzalo Peralta. Crayton's first touch to control the ball failed, and the ball bounced into the path of Dejair, who passed to Eskandarian. The forward placed the shot into an empty net from 20 yards out.

Crayton's night got worse. In the 56th minute, he dived low to stop Eskandarian's close-range shot but could not hold onto the ball. Victorine finished the rebound to make it 2-0. United substitute Francis Doe had a chance to get United back in the game but failed to beat Chivas goalie Dan Kennedy on a breakaway.

Chivas added its third in the 68th minute when Eskandarian set up Dejair with a wonderful cross that allowed the Chivas striker to slide the ball past Crayton.

United must now win its last three games and hope other results go its way to earn a postseason berth.

"We are still in so we can't give up," McTavish said. "We've got to start over with three games left."