By Mike Woitalla
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 5, 2005
SAN JOSE, June 4 -- Last week, D.C. United Coach Peter Nowak complained that his team had been playing "too slow and too predictable." Against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, his troops picked up the pace but remained predictable, especially in the shooting department.
During the 0-0 tie in front of 11,989 fans at Spartan Stadium, D.C. United attackers squandered chance after chance without forcing much work out of San Jose goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
D.C. United (3-4-3) has been shut out five time this season and Saturday's result made it two in a row, following last week's 2-0 loss to FC Dallas. For its part, San Jose (3-3-5) has notched just three goals in its last six outings.
It could have been so much different had D.C. United captain Jaime Moreno exploited a San Jose miscue in the first minute. Moreno chased down San Jose defender Eddie Robinson's weakly headed back pass but shot wide.
Three minutes later, Santino Quaranta, who got a frontline start in place Alecko Eskandarian -- D.C. United's top scorer last season who has yet to score this season -- headed a corner kick over the goal.
Christian Gomez hit a promising volley from 18 yards, but it landed on top of the net. Midfielder Ben Olsen missed two chances, one blocked by a defender in front of the goal and the other flying wide.
Gomez, who orchestrated the D.C. United attack well with his precise passes out of the midfield, was less adept when he got into the San Jose penalty area. During a breakaway in the 18th minute, with the option to shoot or service two well-placed teammates, he stumbled and lost the ball.
"We made progress from last week," Nowak said. "The soccer part was pretty good, but we didn't finish in the final part and especially in the first half.
"One goal can decide the game. Unfortunately, we had those chances but we didn't put it in."
San Jose didn't match D.C. United in first-half scoring chances but could have taken the lead in the 11th minute when Mark Chung found himself alone 14 yards out with the ball bouncing conveniently to his strong left foot. But the recent arrival from the Colorado Rapids blasted wide.
D.C. United thwarted many of San Jose's counterattacks with midfield fouls. The free kicks they produced were easily handled by D.C. United's backline and goalie Nick Rimando.
Early in the second half, D.C. United midfielder Dema Kovalenko, who spent most of the first half tussling Wade Barrett to a stalemate on the flank, broke through and unleashed a 20-yard rocket that flew straight into Onstad's hands.
In the 66th minute, Gomez squandered at close range again. Taking a pass from Moreno seven yards in front of the goal, the Argentine shot a foot wide to the right. Fortunately for D.C. United, San Jose's Brad Davis shot equally poorly from the same distance on the other end four minutes later.
Freddy Adu, whom Nowak has used often as a late sub, is in the Netherlands with the U.S. U-20 national team for the World Youth Championship. So it was Eskandarian whom Nowak brought in, replacing Kovalenko in the 79th minute. That resulted only in stretching Eskandarian's scoreless streak to nine games.