By Steven Goff
Sunday, April 11, 2010; D02
PHILADELPHIA -- D.C. United's perplexing season had finally begun to turn Saturday, a two-goal deficit erased in a five-minute span of the second half on a superb strike by Santino Quaranta and a fortuitous goal by Jaime Moreno.
"When we got the second [goal]," Coach Curt Onalfo said, "I thought we were going to win the game and, at a minimum, walk out of here with a point" for a tie.
Instead, United broke down again and was saddled with a 3-2 loss to the expansion Philadelphia Union, which made its home debut at Lincoln Financial Field in front of a crowd of 34,780 people, including Vice President Biden.
After United defender Dejan Jakovic received a red card, Sebastien Le Toux completed a hat trick with a 22-yard free kick in the 80th minute.
Two weeks ago United (0-3) was undone by early goals. Last week New England did the damage in the final 10 minutes. On this evening, problems at the beginning and end led to the downfall.
Le Toux scored in the fourth and 40th minutes for Philadelphia (1-1), which had a poor showing in its inaugural match and didn't appear to have the attacking personnel to endanger United.
"We talked all week about matching their intensity, but we were shell-shocked a little bit," Quaranta said. "We came out and didn't play any kind of soccer. I didn't think they were playing like Barcelona, you know?"
United lacked invention and ideas and was starved for possession. Its defensive effort was just as worrisome.
On the first goal, United goalkeeper Troy Perkins remained rooted on his goal line as Roger Torres served a cross to the six-yard box, allowing the unmarked Le Toux to snap in a header.
"That whole game is my fault," Perkins said. "The first goal I am too deep on my line, can't get to it."
The situation worsened in the 15th minute when Juan Manuel Pena departed with a strained hamstring. Le Toux doubled the lead by timing his run perfectly to collect Alejandro Moreno's exquisite long ball in stride and place a low, 18-yard shot into the far corner.
Incapable of creating anything in the run of play, United produced its best threat of the half off a set piece -- Danny Allsopp's header that missed the near side off Christian Castillo's corner kick.
In desperate need of possession, Onalfo replaced Castillo with Jaime Moreno at the start of the second half. United was better with the ball yet still lacked menace. Perkins prevented a deeper deficit by denying Le Toux's bid.
In the 63rd minute, Quaranta's high pressure resulted in a Union giveaway. Exuding confidence and composure, Quaranta lashed a 25-yard shot past diving goalkeeper Chris Seitz and into the lower right corner.
Seitz's night took a horribly comical turn seven minutes later. With Moreno shadowing him, Seitz prepared to punt the ball -- an act that unfolds without a hitch thousands of times around the world every weekend. But when Seitz dropped the ball to boot it, he inexplicably stopped his motion. Moreno collected it at the top of the penalty area and scored the easiest of his league-record 132 regular season goals.
But United's fortunes crumbled. Jakovic misplayed a bouncing ball and fouled Alejandro Moreno. Referee Terry Vaughn ruled that Jakovic had prevented a clear run at the goal and ejected the D.C. defender.
"I grabbed him and he hooked me and fell down right away, very easily," Jakovic said.
Le Toux tagged the ensuing free kick into the left corner, a goal that Perkins took responsibility for, saying, "I am too far over on one side."
United notes: Union Coach Peter Nowak, the former D.C. United coach and a native of Poland, watched the match from a private box because he didn't feel it would be appropriate to be on the sideline in the wake of the plane crash in Russia that killed many Polish government officials. Among the victims was Piotr Nurowski, head of the Olympic committee and Nowak's longtime friend.
"When the whole country is mourning, there is only one way to pay respect, and it's not to be on the sideline," he said before the game.
-- CHIVAS USA 2, NEW YORK 0: The Goats scored their first two goals of the season while shutting out Red Bull New York at Home Depot Center. New York goalie Bouna Coundoul had an own goal before Jesus Padilla scored during the 91st minute.
-- BARCELONA 2, REAL MADRID 0: Barcelona took a three-point lead atop the Spanish league following a record fourth straight win over its closest rival.
Lionel Messi, coming off a four-goal performance in the Champions League, put the defending champions ahead after 33 minutes by sending a shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas for his 40th goal of the season.
-- FA CUP: Financially troubled Portsmouth was relegated from the Premier League on the eve of its FA Cup semifinal when West Ham beat Sunderland, 1-0, on Saturday. If Portsmouth beats Tottenham on Sunday, it could end on a high note by beating Chelsea in the final.
Chelsea, meanwhile, returned to the FA Cup final by shutting out Aston Villa, 3-0. Didier Drogba scored on a ball from John Terry in the 68th minute and Florent Malouda side-footed home a right-wing cross from Michael Ballack in the 89th. Frank Lampard knocked in the third in injury time.
-- Associated Press