Chicago tops winless United, 2-0

Former Virginia Tech star Patrick Nyarko (14) of Chicago dashes in between two United players to battle for control of the ball.
Former Virginia Tech star Patrick Nyarko (14) of Chicago dashes in between two United players to battle for control of the ball. (Larry French/getty Images)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 80th minute rolled around Saturday night, and as if right on cue, D.C. United turned a hopeful situation into another deflating defeat. In the process, United lost its fourth straight to equal the worst start in the club's 15-season history.

World Cup veteran Brian McBride, making a rare appearance as a substitute, used a clever touch to set up Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa's goal and later scored on a header assisted by goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, lifting the previously winless Chicago Fire to a 2-0 victory before 18,407 at RFK Stadium.

Despite formation and personnel changes, United (0-4) generated few quality scoring opportunities and was blanked for the third time. And for the third consecutive outing, D.C. yielded a tiebreaking goal with 10 minutes left.

The losses are clearly taking their toll.

"We are men in here, we are professionals, we can't just keep saying positives," midfielder Santino Quaranta said in a solemn locker room. "We have to start holding each other accountable. This is ridiculous. We work all week, and we work hard for 75 minutes, and then there the game goes again. It's getting old."

Fourteen years ago, in Major League Soccer's inaugural season, United overcame an 0-4 start to win the championship, but this toothless squad seems incapable of engineering such a turnaround. Defensive shortcomings and a tame attack have left United as the only club in the 16-team league without a point in the standings.

Asked if he thought he could win with this group, Coach Curt Onalfo responded, "Yes, I do."

Commenting on the meek attack, which produced just three shots on goal Saturday for a mere 15 all season, he said: "Right now, it's not good enough. It's crystal clear it's not good enough."

Neither is the goalkeeping. United thought it had addressed that concern in the offseason by reacquiring Troy Perkins, a U.S. national team candidate. But Perkins wasn't sharp in the first three matches and was shaky again Saturday. He got away with it in the first half and couldn't do much to stop Pappa's go-ahead shot, but in the 89th minute, he was slow to react to McBride's header to the near post.

Early in the match, he had to reach back to tap away Collins John's shot from the top of the penalty area and whiffed on an ensuing cross. Just before halftime, Perkins had a misadventure on a ball outside the penalty area.

Andy Najar didn't help the cause with a shockingly poor clearing attempt from the end line that landed in United's six-yard box before being knocked away.

United did well to keep possession and provide width to the attack in the first half, but the only clear opportunity was Julius James's near-post header off Quaranta's corner kick. In the 39th minute, Chris Pontius departed with a strained hamstring.

After the break, United labored to solve the conservative tactics by the Fire (1-2-1). As in the first half, D.C.'s best chance came on a set piece -- Quaranta's free kick that Dykstra (Osbourn Park High) punched away. Danny Allsopp's stab at the rebound struck a player at the six-yard box.

McBride, held out of the lineup in part because of leg soreness, entered in the 76th minute and promptly changed the game. Patrick Nyarko (Virginia Tech) crossed from the end line toward the heart of the penalty area. McBride let the ball pass between his legs before touching it with the inside of his right foot, setting up Pappa for a rising, 15-yard drive past Perkins.

United offered a muted response, and in the dying moments, Dykstra served a seemingly innocent free kick from Chicago's end. The ball sailed into the penalty area, where McBride beat Carey Talley for a header that snuck past Perkins.

"I don't have an answer," captain Jaime Moreno said. "I've never felt this way, I've never been in this situation. I don't think anybody has. It's very hard to describe."

Premier League tightens

Manchester United moved within a point of Chelsea in the English Premier League title race with a 1-0 victory at Manchester City on Paul Scholes's injury time winner and the leader's 2-1 loss at Tottenham.

Scholes's header gave Alex Ferguson's team 76 points from 35 games, and first-half goals by Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale gave Tottenham a victory that left Chelsea with 77 points from 35 games with three rounds to go. Tottenham moved into fourth place above Man City. Chelsea captain John Terry was ejected in the second half before Frank Lampard replied in injury time.

-- SOUNDERS 1, WIZARDS 0: Kasey Keller picked up his second shutout in four games and Michael Fucito scored in second-half stoppage time as Seattle beat visiting Kansas City.

-- DYNAMO 3, CHIVAS USA 0: Geoff Cameron, Lovel Palmer and Dominic Oduro scored for Houston, which extended its home unbeaten streak against Chivas USA to eight games.

-- RED BULLS 2, FC DALLAS 1: In Harrison, N.J., Juan Pablo Angel scored his first two goals of the season to spark New York.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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