- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

On paper it was a game that D.C. United should have won easily - a match against the team that had the second-worst record in MLS, no wins on the road since June 2008 and a goalie making his league debut.

But what looked like a sure victory turned into a devastating loss as United fell 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes at RFK Stadium on Sunday.

United played decent soccer for much of the first half and took the lead on a Jaime Moreno goal. But in the second half, United looked tired and uninspired, surrendering goals to Ramon Sanchez and Ryan Johnson.

“We had every opportunity to run away with the game in the first half, but we were unable to put our chances away,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “Any team you keep around can come back and haunt you. We came out flat in the second half on a day when we are trying to make the playoffs. It’s thoroughly disappointing. I have to go back and evaluate whether I had the right blend of guys on the field.”

There was other bad news. United goalie Josh Wicks left the field early in the second half with a dislocated shoulder. He will have an MRI on Monday.

United rebounded late in the game with a flurry of good chances but in the end was booed off the field.

With the loss, United blew a chance to move within two points of earning a playoff berth. United remains out of the playoff picture in an extremely tight race with only three games left, including two tough home games.

“This is a devastating loss, and it’s going to be tough to come back from this,” midfielder Santino Quaranta said.

United took the lead in the 26th minute on an excellent goal from Moreno. Ben Olsen set up the overlapping Chris Pontius, and Pontius sent in a perfect pass from the left flank. Moreno calmly left-footed the ball from 10 yards past San Jose goalie Andrew Weber, a former United reserve playing his first MLS match. It was the eighth goal of the season and the 130th career strike for the league’s all-time leading scorer.

Just before the break a goal by San Jose was waved off. Johnson headed the ball past Wicks, but it was judged offside by the assistant referee. Video replay appeared to show that it was an incorrect call.

In the 52nd minute Wicks injured his shoulder after running to the edge of his box to clear a ball. As Wicks fell to the ground, Johnson put the ball in the net, but referee Baldomero Toledo waved it off, having blown his whistle for the injury. Milos Kocic replaced Wicks.

San Jose then tied the game five minutes later. Sanchez struck a beautifully taken free kick, curling the ball high in the upper-left corner past Kocic.

The Earthquakes took a well-deserved lead 15 minutes later. United defender Clyde Simms tried to block Arturo Alvarez’s shot, but the ball deflected off Simms leg and hit the bar. Johnson knocked in the rebound with a diving header.

Soehn then sent in Christian Gomez and Thabiso Khumalo to add some energy late in the game. Pontius had a bicycle kick cleared off the line, and Khumalo had a fine shot skim the bar, but to no avail.

“I thought our energy was terrible in the second half,” Soehn said, “and they came out with some bite.”

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