- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

Even without star Landon Donovan, the San Jose Earthquakes still had no trouble handing D.C. United its second home loss of the season.

While Donovan was in New England yesterday putting on a goal-scoring clinic for the U.S. national team in the Gold Cup, Manny Lagos scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 54th minute as the Western Conference-leading Earthquakes easily defeated United 2-1 yesterday before an announced 21,892 at RFK Stadium.

If it wasn’t for at least five terrific saves from United goalkeeper Nick Rimando, the final score could have been 4-1 or 5-1.

“We played the worst football that I have ever seen by any team of mine,” United coach Ray Hudson said. “There was some poor individual performances. All in all, it was the worst we’ve played. I’ve stood up here and defended my team and I’ve defended individuals, but not tonight. We played abominably after we took the lead. This was just a horrendous team performance.”

This game started as if last-place United (4-6-6) was ready to turn its season around and reach .500 for the first time this season. Ali Curtis scored his first goal of the season in the 13th minute to give United a 1-0 lead.

The goal materialized when Rimando caught a harmless Earthquakes free kick in the penalty area. Rimando then fired the ball out to forward Hristo Stoitchkov, who played a 20-yard ball forward into space for Curtis to run on.

Curtis, a tireless worker, simply outran Earthquakes midfielder Brian Mullan for Stoitchkov’s ball and ran 35 yards down the left flank before unloading a left-footed shot from eight yards out that beat Earthquakes goalkeeper Pat Onstad to the far right post.

But after the goal, United went south in a hurry. United lost its shape, couldn’t pass the ball and played poor defense.

“It was like an Alka-Seltzer dissolving in a glass of water,” Hudson said of his team’s collapse.

After United scored the first goal, San Jose’s (7-3-6) midfield started asserting its dominance. The game changed when the Earthquakes midfielders started taking the game to United, and San Jose tied the game 1-1 in the 38th minute on midfielder Chris Roner’s second goal of the season.

The Earthquakes scored the equalizer off a corner kick. San Jose defender Jeff Agoos, a former United star, sent his corner kick into the middle of the box where forward Brian Ching headed the ball down through the 6-yard box.

Santino Quaranta, who was inexplicably inserted into a central midfield role, poorly cleared Ching’s ball out of danger. Quaranta’s clearance hit Roner’s left shin as he was stumbling toward the back post. The ball trickled past Rimando, who slid to guard the post, and rolled in for one of the cheaper goals one will see.

“Chris [Roner] and Ramiro [Corrales] did a great job in the middle when things settled down,” Agoos said. “In a lot of these games in MLS, when you win the midfield battle you’re going to win the game.”

United failed to make adjustments at halftime, came out flat, and allowed the Earthquakes to take the lead.

The game-winner was produced when Agoos played a long ball up the left flank to Ching, who easily beat United defender Brandon Prideaux to the ball and then outraced Prideaux into the box. United defender Mike Petke slid over to stop Ching, who put a move on Petke and laid the ball off to Lagos coming through the box, and Lagos easily finished from 6 yards into a wide open net and gave San Jose a 2-1 lead.

“We looked like a set of old women tonight,” Hudson said. “I couldn’t recognize some of our players.”

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