The San Jose Clash took advantage of its strength -- the shootout -- and exploited a weakened D.C. United team that was without playmaker Marco Etcheverry and forward Jaime Moreno for a 2-1 victory tonight at Stanford Stadium.
The Clash has appeared in nine shootouts this season, winning eight -- a Major League Soccer record. But a shootout win yields just one point in the standings instead of three, which means San Jose (10-7) has hovered near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Baicher gave the Clash a 3-2 edge in the shootout after goalkeeper Joe Cannon stopped three United attempts. Ronald Cerritos and Dario Brose also scored for San Jose in the tiebreaker. Jeff Agoos and Carlos Llamosa scored for United.
"The team is aware that our record looks good on paper, but we don't have the points to back it up," Clash midfielder Eddie Lewis said.
Defense is the Clash's weakness, and United tried to take advantage. But without the midfield presence that Etcheverry provides, United (11-6) clearly struggled. Etcheverry and Moreno are with the Bolivian national team in Copa America.
"We should have had three goals in this one," United Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We missed Marco and Jaime today without a doubt. With all the space San Jose was giving us in the first half, Marco could have really done something."
A.J. Wood gave United a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute with a strike that caught Cannon flatfooted. Begun by a nice piece of service from Agoos, Geoff Aunger passed the ball out to the top of the six-yard box to a waiting Wood, who one-timed his third goal of the season into the net.
San Jose came back late in the first half on a breakaway started when Wade Barrett delivered the ball downfield to Cerritos, who neatly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Tom Presthus to tie the score at 1-1.
The score followed a run of play in which the Clash tentatively probed the D.C. area with a free-kick attempt by Baicher that forced Presthus to make a play on the ball in the 34th minute. Barely a minute later, Mauricio Solis, making his MLS debut, got behind a long ball and Presthus was forced once again to make a play.
United had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the second half when Roy Lassiter had a penalty kick in the 51st minute. Lassiter, the leading scorer in MLS, got the opportunity when Wood was dragged down in the area by Jamie Clark. But Lassiter shot the ball straight at Cannon and no United player was able to push in the rebound.
From there it was a matter of inches: Wood missed a great chance in the area in the 75th minute after some string work by Aunger and Brian Kamler to feed him the ball. At the opposite end, Lewis and Raul Diaz Arce continued to pierce United's defenses, but the pair never connected.
Carey Talley barely saved the crowd from the shootout when he rocked a blast off the bar with about two minutes left to go, but Lassiter could not settle the rebound.
"We were much better. We're a much better team," Lassiter said. "I wish I could make them all [penalty kicks]. If I'd made it, we'd have won, but I'm not going to beat myself up over it."
Notes: The game was played as the second half of a doubleheader with the Women's World Cup semifinal match between the United States and Brazil. About 25,000 fans lingered for the first half of the MLS game. But by game's end, the stadium had emptied. . . . Eddie Pope turned his knee and hobbled off before the whistle. Pope is expected to train with the national team in two weeks in Denver to prepare for the Confederations Cup.