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In Its Trip Out West, United's Fortunes Go South in Defeat

United goalkeeper Louis Crayton dives too late to stop a goal by the Galaxy's Alan Gordon in the first half. D.C. became the first team in more than three months to lose to the Galaxy.
United goalkeeper Louis Crayton dives too late to stop a goal by the Galaxy's Alan Gordon in the first half. D.C. became the first team in more than three months to lose to the Galaxy. (By Mark Avery -- Associated Press)

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 21, 2008; 2:42 AM

CARSON, Calif., Sept. 20 -- D.C. United roared its displeasure about the referee and linesmen, about the red card that extinguished its comeback hopes and about what it perceived as preferential treatment for David Beckham.

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But upon further reflection following a 5-2 loss to the free-falling Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night, United looked at its own shortcomings and an inexcusable performance that further jeopardized its MLS playoff hopes.

There were the three goals conceded in a 15-minute stretch, the def ensive performance of preseason quality and the general disorganization. And there was the indignity of becoming the first team in more than three months to lose to the Galaxy.

MLS leading scorer Landon Donovan had three goals and an assist to help offset strikes by Devon McTavish and Thabiso Khumalo in front of 27,000 at Home Depot Center. In ending a 12-game winless streak, the Galaxy (7-10-8) revived its playoff chances and extended United's rut to four.

The result left United (10-12-3) clinging to the final postseason berth with five games left, one point ahead of Kansas City and four points or fewer in front of three other teams.

"We've got to get over it quick," McTavish said. "We have a lot of important games left and we are right there trying get into the playoffs. We can't dwell on this at all."

United was certainly willing to dwell on the officiating by referee Terry Vaughn and linesmen C.J. Morgante and Sean Hurd, who appeared to miss several offside calls. The most devastating decision was made by Vaughn, who ejected Marc Burch for a sideline challenge on Beckham, leaving resurgent United a man short for the final 27 minutes.

Burch certainly made contact, contributing to Beckham's tumble into a sign board, but it was hardly a malicious tackle. After the match, Beckham said he had told Vaughn at the time that the ejection was not warranted. "The momentum took me over the line and I lost my balance," he said.

"I swung for the ball and hit the back of his leg," said Burch, who must sit out Sunday's game at Dallas. "I guess that comes with bringing him to the league."

When Vaughn showed the red card, "the Galaxy [coaching] staff looked at me and had no answers; it's just a soft card. It was terrible," United C oach Tom Soehn said. "We all saw it: It was an absolute travesty."

So was United's display for the final 25 minutes of the first half, a stretch that turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit. McTavish scored 71 seconds into the match, putting away Ivan Guerrero's corner kick, for his first career goal in 48 career regular season appearances. United continued to generate opportunities, but failed to stretch the lead.

Beckham then energized the Galaxy -- with a yellow card.


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