Banged-Up United Faces Hot San Jose

By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 6, 2008; Page E08

When the San Jose Earthquakes visited RFK Stadium on June 22, D.C. United Coach Tom Soehn watched his team's uneven performance and concluded, "As a whole, we didn't show up."

United still won that game, 3-1.

When the teams meet again tonight in Santa Clara, Calif., United won't have it so easy. Not after what has happened over the past six weeks.

The expansion Earthquakes, who finished the season's first half 3-9-5, are playing their best soccer with a 3-0-2 stretch since the all-star break.

Their recent improvement hasn't gone unnoticed in the United locker room, where a few players heard the name San Jose earlier this week and immediately responded, "They're on a roll."

Joe Vide, acquired by United off waivers after the Earthquakes released him in mid-July, said he has seen the biggest change in San Jose's attack.

"When I was there, we didn't give up that many goals, we just had trouble putting the ball in the net," Vide said. "Obviously with how [Coach] Frank [Yallop] plays, they like to pass the ball around, and things are starting to click a little bit."

As San Jose has improved, United has dealt with a seemingly never-ending rash of injuries, which continued in their most recent game, Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Charleston Battery in the U.S. Open Cup final.

Reigning Major League Soccer most valuable player Luciano Emilio aggravated his groin strain as he scored United's first goal and will not play tonight.

Vide also had to leave early with a hamstring strain. Immediately after the game, he said the team would have to "tie me down" to keep him from playing against his former employer. But United has decided to rest him tonight.

One player who looked to be getting healthy -- Fred -- apparently is not.

As a substitute Wednesday, the Brazilian midfielder provided his usual creative spark to the United attack and eventually scored the game-winning goal. But it was determined late Thursday that the hamstring strain he suffered two weeks ago is bad enough to sideline him tonight.

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