Burn 5, United 1

The MLS all-star break couldn't come soon enough for D.C. United.

Missing 10 players, including six starters, and playing its fifth game in 15 days, United was blasted by the Dallas Burn, 5-1, on Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl for its worst loss of this wildly erratic season.

"We need this break, there's no question," said Coach Peter Nowak, who was forced to start five rookies and two second-year players. His bench had twice as many staff members (six) as players (three) -- a backup goalkeeper; a forward with one minute of experience who was acquired in a trade 24 hours earlier; and an unknown defender called up at the last minute from a Northern Virginia minor league team.

The outcome before 11,088 spectators was painfully predictable. United (5-7-6) limped into the break on a three-game winless streak after watching its road record slip to an abysmal 1-5-3.

"It's very hard to swallow, this game," Nowak said. "But this is what we're all about for today. I know we're going to be a different team tomorrow."

Brad Davis had two goals and an assist and Eddie Johnson scored twice for the Burn (6-6-5), which raced to a two-goal lead after 31 minutes en route to its highest scoring performance of the year. United's only score came on an own goal in the first half.

Of the absences, the most crucial were top goal scorer Alecko Eskandarian (one-game suspension), all-star defender Ryan Nelsen (knee and groin injuries), and midfielders Ben Olsen (quadriceps and prior commitments) and Dema Kovalenko (suspension).

Midfielders Nana Kuffour, nursing a bad ankle, and Kevin Ara received their first league starts, and defender David Stokes, who has struggled this year, got his third. To compound problems, Nowak had to go to his thin bench after just 30 minutes when defender Mike Petke departed with a hamstring injury.

"It was bad," goalkeeper Troy Perkins said of the game result and his club's personnel crisis. "I said to myself that I don't think I did one thing right to help us out. All the excuses are there, but it doesn't matter. We still have to come out and play, and tonight we didn't show up."

Dallas took the lead in the 10th minute on a dead-ball situation as Davis served a free kick from the right side into the six-yard box. Steve Jolley got inside position on Petke and sent a solid header past Perkins. The Burn, averaging barely one goal per game, doubled the lead in the 31st minute when former D.C. player Carey Talley delivered a magnificent cross to Johnson, who scored with a running, left-footed volley from eight yards past the helpless Perkins.

United responded three minutes later. Freddy Adu, who had some dazzling moments in both halves, beat a defender on the left with nifty footwork and invaded the penalty area before smacking a cross into the six-yard box. Retreating on the play, Dallas defender Cory Gibbs inadvertently redirected the ball past his goalie, Jeff Cassar.

Just before the half, however, Davis rocketed a shot from the top of the box that skipped off Bryan Namoff and over Perkins for a 3-1 lead heading into intermission.

Adu tested Cassar early in the second half with a low blast, but Dallas struck again in the 63rd minute when Oscar Pareja slotted a pass through United's slow-footed defense to Davis, who cracked an eight-yarder under Perkins. Johnson scored his second goal in the 73rd minute, pushing the ball into an empty net after another United defensive gaffe.

"It's tough to describe what happened," midfielder Brian Carroll said. "There were a lot of new faces put together and a bit of change, and we weren't able to string anything together. It's disappointing."

United Notes: Forward Jason Thompson, acquired from Dallas on Friday, entered for Petke. Defender Garlon Cannon was called up from the Northern Virginia Royals and replaced the hobbling Kuffour early in the second half. . . . United will bring in two or three players for tryouts this coming week, technical director Dave Kasper said. . . . Kovalenko has been added to the Eastern Conference all-star team. . . . Former University of Maryland standout Clarence Goodson made his league debut for the Burn in the 23rd minute.