By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 17, 2009 1:29 AM
CARSON, Calif., May 16 -- D.C. United staged another stirring comeback Saturday night, scoring twice in the final 13 minutes to earn a 2-2 tie with Chivas USA and extend its unbeaten streak in league play to six.
Luciano Emilio struck in the 77th minute and Santino Quaranta was credited with the equalizer in the 85th on the last of several bizarre moments in front of 16,223 at Home Depot Center. By scoring in the closing moments for the fourth time in six games, United (3-1-6, 15 points) claimed a share of first place with Chicago (3-0-6, 15) in MLS's Eastern Conference and stretched its overall run to seven games.
"It's about a belief in themselves and each other," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "It's a no-die attitude: No matter what happens, we are going to fight through adversity, and adversity being sometimes officiating, sometimes the opponent."
Maykel Galindo scored a controversial goal midway through the first half and Eduardo Lillingston added another just before intermission for Chivas (7-1-2), which remained atop the Western Conference.
On the tying goal, Quaranta drove a low shot from 30 yards that slithered through the box and toward Christian Gómez, who was in an offside position. Gómez swiped at the ball and, although he didn't appear to make contact, admitted afterward that it "grazed me" before sliding into the left corner of the net.
Chivas argued that, whether or not Gómez made contact, he should've been ruled offside for interfering with the play and distracting goalkeeper Zach Thornton.
"He is involved in the play," Chivas defender Carey Talley said. "The referee said he didn't touch it, but we told him it shouldn't matter."
Both clubs benefited from questionable officiating. In the 25th minute, Galindo was clearly offside but play continued and he scored on a breakaway.
United's lineup brought more changes, most notably in goal, where Louis Crayton regained his job and Josh Wicks served as the back-up with rookie Milos Kocic, last weekend's starter, remaining at home.
Soehn kept his backline intact and rested playmaker Gómez in favor of a unique alignment that had Jaime Moreno and Quaranta supporting Emilio and rookies Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius running the flanks.
Ben Olsen returned to defensive midfield, paired with Clyde Simms, after missing two games with a hamstring strain. But just six minutes into the match, he reached for his right leg after a midfield challenge and immediately signaled to the bench for a substitution. It was the hamstring again, prompting his exit and Andrew Jacobson's entrance.
"I felt it go," said Olsen, who expects to have an MRI exam Monday. "It's disappointing because I put the team in a bad spot. You don't want to be the guy that they're using an early sub on."
Before Olsen's injury, Chivas threatened to score on a play that appeared offside. In the 25th minute, the hosts did score, and initial indications seemed to show a clear offside.
As Atiba Harris sent a through ball along the right side, United defender Bryan Namoff stepped forward to catch the rocket-footed Galindo offside. Linesman Emiliano Monje was in poor position, however, and missed the call, allowing Galindo to breeze in alone, touch the ball past the desperately charging Crayton and tuck the shot into the vacant net.
Slow-motion video replays showed the play was closer to being onside than initially thought. Nonetheless, Galindo was a step beyond Namoff when Harris offered the ball.
"I'm standing there waiting for the flag," Namoff said. "The flag was never raised. I was completely stunned. You can't miss something so obvious."
Soehn and his assistants protested vigorously, but the goal stood -- the first in more than a year by the oft-injured Galindo.
Two minutes later, Lillingston ran onto a ball in a gaping channel and thumped a blistering shot off the crossbar.
United settled down, gradually mounting an attack but failing to link passes in dangerous positions. With the combination work out of synch, Moreno shot from distance in the 40th minute and Thornton made a routine save.
Chivas then struck again; this time on a disjointed sequence in the 43rd. Mariano Trujillo drove a high ball into the box. In attempting to punch it out of danger, Crayton deflected the ball off the head of Justin Braun before his momentum sent him crashing into the Chivas forward.
The ball caromed to Harris, who, with Crayton out of position, crossed to the six-yard box, where Lillingston beat defender Marc Burch to a header.
When the halftime whistle sounded, Soehn and Olsen marched to midfield and approached the officiating crew to further vent their disgust with the first goal.
Trailing by two goals for the first time this year, Soehn turned to Brazilian midfielder Fred at the start of the second half and withdrew Pontius.
Moreno wasted a rare opening in the 61st, touching the ball too far ahead of Emilio when he probably should have shot from 12 yards. Moments later, Namoff's 30-yarder missed narrowly wide and Wallace's back-post header was off target.
After Crayton denied Braun's header with a leaping tip save, Soehn made his final substitution -- Gómez for Jacobson. Emilio should have halved the deficit in the 75th minute, but his clear attempt was stuffed by Thornton. Two minutes later, Emilio made no such mistakes. Quaranta burst along the right side and crossed into the center of the box, where Emilio's sliding stab directed the ball into the far corner and ended Chivas's shutout streak at 401 minutes.
United maintained the pressure and drew even on Quaranta's shot -- and Gómez's apparent touch.
"I just wanted to get it on target," Quaranta said. Told Gómez admitted touching it, Quaranta added: "He can have it, as long as we get the point. In the end, that's what matters."
Said Soehn: "I'm proud of the passion that they showed, and the character and heart."
United Notes: Pontius, a former UC Santa Barbara standout who is a Southern California native, was expecting 100 family and friends in attendance. . . . Defender Greg Janicki suffered a minor ankle injury a few days ago, and with two games next week, he didn't make this trip.