It was July 4, about 6:15 p.m., at Foxboro Stadium.

The New York/New Jersey MetroStars scored a goal with about six minutes remaining in a 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution.

They haven't scored since.

The condition of the MetroStars -- D.C. United's desperate opponent tonight at Giants Stadium -- has deteriorated to the point that even Coach Bora Milutinovic, who has coached in a record four World Cups, can't seem to help.

"It's been a very difficult year, to say the least, and it's especially difficult right now," MetroStars General Manager Charlie Stillitano said yesterday.

The MetroStars (5-15) have been shut out in their past four games, and combined with the final few minutes of that Fourth of July game at New England, they've gone 366 minutes without a goal -- a Major League Soccer record. They've lost 11 of their last 12 games and only two victories this year were in regulation, the rest in shootouts.

They've accumulated only nine points in the Eastern Conference standings and are on pace to easily set a league record for fewest in a season (Colorado in 1996 and New England last year finished with 29). They've scored 17 goals all season -- United's Roy Lassiter has 15 -- and could become the first MLS team not to average at least a goal a game.

Milutinovic, considered a miracle worker for national teams of various backgrounds, has coached the MetroStars in 23 games since taking the job late last season; they've won two in regulation.

And just when the MetroStars believed things couldn't get worse, they have. They are missing seven players, including six midfielders, for tonight's match and have had to call up four minor leaguers to fill out the roster. Four players were injured in Saturday's 2-0 loss to Miami, and veteran midfielder Mike Sorber will serve a one-game suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards.

So with all of New York/New Jersey's problems, why is United Coach Thomas Rongen concerned?

"Based on our lack of success in the last two games, I think it's time for a reality check," he said. "We realize we have to play better on both sides of the field regardless of who we play. We have some issues we have to deal with."

United defeated Tampa Bay, 3-2, in a shootout Sunday at RFK Stadium following an upset loss to a minor league team in the U.S. Open Cup last week. With some star players wearing down following national team commitments and the team struggling on defense, Rongen isn't taking any games for granted.

United's lead over Columbus in the Eastern Conference has slipped to two points, and the Crew is coming to town Saturday afternoon.

There might be some lineup changes tonight, most notably on the right side of midfield because Ben Olsen, who played for the United States at the Confederations Cup in Mexico recently, is "worn out," Rongen said. "He's been fighting through it, but he needs a rest."

If Olsen doesn't start, rookie Chris Albright probably will. On defense, Carlos Llamosa remains sidelined with a quadriceps injury, but Diego Sonora, who sat out Sunday's game, said his groin injury has improved and he may play tonight.

Rongen is fortunate to have a deep bench, which includes the highly regarded Albright, fellow rookie midfielders Jason Moore and Antonio Otero, and veteran forward A.J. Wood, who has scored in four of the past five games.

The MetroStars aren't expecting much of a crowd tonight. The game was initially scheduled for early October, but moved to accommodate United's international schedule and to take advantage of Giants Stadium's grass surface, which will be removed soon for the NFL season.

"If we can win two of our next three games, maybe we can make a run at the playoffs," Stillitano said. "If we don't, that's it. The rebuilding process will begin."


Data: vs. New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

Where: Giants Stadium.

When: 7 p.m.

TV: NewsChannel 8.

Radio: WACA-1540 (Spanish).

Records: United 14-7, 34 points; MetroStars 5-15, 9 points.

D.C. Probable Starters: GK -- Tom Presthus; D -- Carey Talley, Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, John Maessner; MF -- Richie Williams, Geoff Aunger, Ben Olsen, Marco Etcheverry; F -- Jaime Moreno, Roy Lassiter (15 goals, 8 assists).

MetroStars Top Players: F Eduardo Hurtado (4 goals, 2 assists), GK Mike Ammann, F Sasa Curcic, D Mohammad Khakpour, D Mike Petke.