DC United’s playoff hopes took a severe blow Sunday with a 2-1 loss to San Jose at RFK Stadium. Despite taking a lead and controlling possession through most of the match, mental lapses and an overall flat second stanza doomed the home side, which has fallen for the second consecutive time in an MLS game in their once friendly confines.
The win was the Quakes first away from home this season and snapped a 20-game road losing streak dating back to June 7, 2008, a 2-0 result over Columbus.
Jaime Moreno gave United the lead in the 26th minute but United were lucky to go into the halftime break with the lead after a goal by Ryan Johnson was disallowed for a questionable offside call.
Johnson put the ball in the net again at the start of the second half but the play was blown down by referee Baldomero Toledo so an obviously injured Josh Wicks could be immediately attended to by United staff. Wicks dislocated his left shoulder on the perilous sequence and was replaced by Milos Kocic. Wicks could miss 1-3 weeks.
“We had every opportunity to run away with the game in the first half. We were unable to put our chances away and any team you keep around it’s going to come back to haunt you,” said United Head Coach Tom Soehn.
“We came out flat in the second half, on a day – any day you can’t afford it – but on a day when we’re 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.”
Soehn chose not to start Christian Gomez but brought the playmaker on in the 76th minute, just four minutes after United fell behind.
The personnel move that changed the match however was San Jose coach Frank Yallop’s decision to insert Arturo Alvarez at the start of the second half. The quick and crafty Alvarez changed the tempo of the match and earned the Earthquakes some long needed possession and a threatening presence in the attacking third of the field.
“Putting Arturo on made a big difference to our team. He’s dynamic, he’s quick; it gave Ryan Johnson a bit more space to run around,” said Yallop. “At halftime we have made some adjustments before and they have really worked and today was the same thing. We went out trying to make sure were nice and solid defensively and see how the game pans out.”
“I think the game looked so easy to us the first 45 minutes of the game, the first half, that I think that we thought we were just going to go out and keep doing what we were doing,” said United midfielder Santino Quaranta.
“It seemed like they didn’t touch the ball in the first half and we could do whatever we wanted. We come out in the second half and they had Alvarez who changed the game. It just wasn’t good enough and that’s devastating, this loss.”
United had no answer for the sturdy Johnson the entire match and he became even more effective, along with running mate Chris Wondolowski, once Alvarez put his stamp on the match.
Luciano Emilio should have put United in front in the 18th minute but his uncontested header off a Quaranta corner kick bounced over the crossbar in front of goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
Moreno’s goal was indicative of the action at that time of the match, as the league’s all time leading scorer stepped in front of Daniel Hernandez to collect a Chris Pontius cross from the left flank near the tip left corner of the 6-yard box, turned and powered a left footed shot through Weber to give United a 1-0 lead.
Ben Olsen had sprung Pontius with a simple ball out of midfield with the West Covina, CA native playing a low cross into Moreno, who had darted to the spot with a slashing run from the top of the penalty area.
As rain finally broke through the ominously dark clouds that enveloped the Washington area all day, the Quakes fortunes turned clear and bright as the whistle blew to start the second half with the Wicks injury being the only sour moment.
Wicks jettisoned his goal to contest a high, floating corner from Simon Elliott, and as Johnson was doing the same, the two rose up, Wick’s extended left arm got caught under Johnson body as the rest of his body went forward and the keeper fell to the turf in obvious pain.
Johnson collected the rebound and banged a shot that deflected high off a United defender but the rightfully cautious Toledo blew the play down before the ball bounced inside the right post in the 49th minute.
Nine minutes later, Julius James took down Johnson in a plum location some 26-yards from goal straight on and Ramon Sanchez made United pay. The Salvadoran’s curving left footer over the wall drifted away from Kocic who barely made a stab at the equalizer.
The Johnson and Alvarez tandem combined to surge the Quakes ahead in the 72nd minute. Alvarez scooped up a poor United clearance and stumbled briefly but got off a shot that was deflected onto the crossbar by Clyde Simms.
The ball caromed directly to Johnson and with Kocic out to cut down the angle for the original shot, his diving header from some 11-yards out bounced into the vacated net for his 9th goal of the season.
“I kind of anticipated that the ball was going to hit the post and when it did, it came to me pretty fast but where the ball landed I saw an opportunity for a diving header,” said Johnson.
With their fading playoff hopes staring them squarely in the face, United did have a late resurgence but could not finish.
James rose well above the crowd to get his head onto a Moreno corner in the 74th minute but his attempt missed just wide of the right post.
Eight minutes later, Corrales swept a superb Pontius bicycle kick off the line from 10-yards out and Boyzz Khumalo’s left footed effort from the top of the penalty as the match went into stoppage time skimmed the top of the crossbar.
“We addressed a lot at halftime, talked about shoring up our shape a little bit better and I thought our energy was terrible in the second half. They came out with a little bit of bite and we didn’t adjust to it. We kind of just stayed in a lull,” said Soehn.
“It wasn’t until after they scored that we put in some legs and realized we had to get back in the game. It’s disappointing [because] it comes at a time when we’re desperate for points to get in the playoffs and we sure didn’t show that urgency.”
“It’s devastating but in the end we didn’t finish the game well,” added Quaranta. “We came out in the second half and it was a letdown and for the first 15-minutes we let them back in the game. It just wasn’t good, it’s not good.”
DC — Jaime Moreno 8 (Chris Pontius 3, Ben Olsen 1) 26
SJ — Ramon Sanchez 2 (unassisted) 58
SJ — Ryan Johnson 9 (unassisted) 73
San Jose Earthquakes — Andrew Weber, Chris Leitch, Bobby Burling (Arturo Alvarez 46), Brandon McDonald, Jason Hernandez, Ramon Sanchez, Ramiro Corrales, Simon Elliott, Bobby Convey, Ryan Johnson, Chris Wondolowski,
Substitutes Not Used: Quincy Amarikwa, Mike Graczyk, Aaron Pitchkolan, Antonio Ribeiro, Michael Zaher
D.C. United — Josh Wicks (Milos Kocic 52), Lawson Vaughn, Julius James, Marc Burch (Christian Gomez 76), Santino Quaranta, Ben Olsen, Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Chris Pontius, Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno (Thabiso Khumalo 78),
Substitutes Not Used: Fred, Dejan Jakovic, Avery John, Devon McTavish
D.C. United / San Jose Earthquakes
Total shots: 18 (4 tied with 3) 11 (Ryan Johnson 3)
Shots on goal: 4 (Jaime Moreno 2) 4 (4 tied with 1)
Fouls: 9 (Julius James 3,
Chris Pontius 3) 8 (Bobby Convey 2,
Simon Elliott 2)
Offsides: 3 (Chris Pontius 2) 3 (Ryan Johnson 3)
Corner kicks: 8 (Jaime Moreno 3) 3 (3 tied with 1)
Saves: 2 (Josh Wicks 2) 3 (Andrew Weber 3)
SJ — Brandon McDonald (caution; Reckless Foul) 28
DC — Rodney Wallace (caution; Reckless Foul) 54
DC — Chris Pontius (caution; Simulation) 68
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: C.J. Morgante; James Conlee
4th official: Jeff Gontarek
Time of game: 1:51
Weather: Cloudy -and- 72 degrees