United Falters Again in N. California

San Jose goalie Joe Cannon blocks a shot by United's Rod Dyachenko in the first half of the Earthquakes' 2-1 victory, as Francisco Lima helps defend.
San Jose goalie Joe Cannon blocks a shot by United's Rod Dyachenko in the first half of the Earthquakes' 2-1 victory, as Francisco Lima helps defend. (By Dino Vournas -- Associated Press)
By Ridge Mahoney
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 7, 2008

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 6 -- The surroundings were new to most of the D.C. United players, but circumstances -- and the final score, a 2-1 defeat -- were all too familiar.

Playing for the first time at Buck Shaw Stadium, a temporary home for the San Jose Earthquakes while a stadium project moves toward a 2011 unveiling, D.C. maintained a decade-long record of futility in Northern California. Not since 1998 has it won in this area, and despite a goal from Santino Quaranta it faltered against a team it had thrashed, 3-1, at RFK Stadium in June.

Arturo Alvarez and Darren Huckerby scored as the Earthquakes ran their unbeaten streak to eight games.

United's record dropped to 10-11-2 (32 points). United failed for the seventh time this season to inch above the .500 mark and remains tied with New York in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

"With all the changes we had to make, I am pretty happy except for the way the things turned out," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "Our young guys kept us in the game in the first half, and in the second half I thought we had the better of it."

Injuries deprived Soehn of defender Gonzalo Peralta, midfielders Fred, Joe Vide and Dominic Mediate, and forward Luciano Emilio. Forward Jaime Moreno was in Ecuador playing for Bolivia in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.

Attacker Marcelo Gallardo returned to the starting lineup for the first time since undergoing sports hernia surgery in early July, and instead of his usual central midfield spot, he began the match at forward alongside Francis Doe, starting for the second time this season.

Neither team managed a shot in the first 10 minutes as United's players sorted out its assignments. Gallardo dropped deeper to find the ball; the first time he did so, he triggered a sequence that led to a promising run by Quaranta, but on his second venture, he lost the ball in his own half of the field and only a foot save by keeper Louis Crayton kept a low blast from Ronnie O'Brien out of the net.

Gallardo himself tested Earthquakes keeper Joe Cannon in the 15th minute, pivoting 30 yards from goal to strike a shot on target that Cannon punched clear. But the patchwork United back line scrambled to contain O'Brien and Huckerby as they attacked from all angles, and in the 18th minute, Huckerby centered the ball from the left flank and a wide-open Alvarez drove it low past Crayton.

Huckerby burst through the middle twice in the first half and Crayton's aggressive charge forced him to either shoot wide or lose control without getting off a shot. When Doe got around the left side of San Jose's defense late in the half, Cannon lunged to block his shot.

Rookie Craig Thompson replaced Doe with seven minutes to play in the first half. Thompson immediately helped create an opening for Rod Dyachenko, whose shot was blocked. At the other end Sealy stripped the ball from Quaranta and fired a shot right at Crayton. San Jose finished the first half with a 6-2 edge in shots and most of the offensive momentum.

Dyachenko joined Gallardo at forward to start the second half, with Thompson moving to right midfield. Thompson got on the end of a cross midway through the second half, only to head it wide; by then, however, United trailed by two goals. In the 62nd minute, Huckerby had banged in his fourth MLS goal from a pass by Scott Sealy, who had run free down the left flank before crossing the ball into the middle.

"It wasn't good enough, and that's the bottom line," said Quaranta, who hit several sharp passes and dangerous crosses in addition to scoring his fourth goal. "But I thought we battled well with all the young guys we had out there, and we were right in it until the end."

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