Inconsistent United Can Only Muster a Tie Against Dallas

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 14, 2008

D.C. United has been befuddled with inconsistencies in the latter stage of the MLS season, both in player availability and results. The trend continued on both fronts last night with another new lineup and a disappointing 2-2 tie with FC Dallas before 19,890 at RFK Stadium.

United overcame an early deficit to take the lead on Santino Quaranta's volley in the 69th minute, but Andre Rocha scored the equalizer 10 minutes later to extend United's winless streak to three and leave D.C. (10-11-3) perilously close to the postseason cutoff with six games remaining.

Coupled with New York's 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, United slipped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The top three teams in each division and the next two overall, regardless of affiliation, will advance to the playoffs. United is safe -- for the moment.

"It's frustrating because we are [about] 10 minutes away from getting three points, and we needed to get three points tonight," Quaranta said. "It's just these little letdowns and little mistakes, they are killing us. It's unacceptable, some of the things we are doing right now."

Kenny Cooper scored in the ninth minute for Dallas (6-9-9) and Jaime Moreno tied it midway through the first half for United.

Quaranta's goal seemed to be enough, but United cracked defensively and allowed reserve Eric Avila to break loose on the left and cross to Rocha for a one-timer from 10 yards. United goalkeeper Louis Crayton was sensational all evening, but on this critical sequence, his diving effort failed to disrupt Avila's low cross.

"I knew very well that [Avila] was going to play the ball across the goal," Crayton said. "I anticipated him doing that and unfortunately the ball went past me and my defender couldn't stop [Rocha's shot] from going in the goal."

Before the game, United Coach Tom Soehn confronted another roster puzzle, this one minus playmaker Marcelo Gallardo, who was scratched because of a week-long illness and a sore ankle. Gonzalo Peralta and Joe Vide also remained out and Luciano Emilio and Fred were available in reserve roles only.

So Soehn turned to midfielder Quavas Kirk, a lanky 20-year-old who had played just 90 minutes in nine previous appearances, and forward Thabiso Khumalo, who officially joined the team on loan from third-division Pittsburgh on Friday.

Kirk was adequate for a half before being replaced by Fred and Khumalo had a promising debut, assisting on Moreno's goal before running out of energy midway through the second half.

"It has been hard on our guys because I keep talking about consistency, and then you can see the lineups we have to keep putting out there are far from consistent," Soehn said.

United created an abundance of scoring opportunities, but the defense let it down.

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