Earthquakes 2,

D.C. United 0

D.C. United's misadventures on the road continued Saturday night with a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes before 19,324, the biggest crowd of the year at Spartan Stadium.

United (5-8-6) fell to an MLS-worst 1-6-3 in away matches and stretched its road winless streak to five games since beating New England at Gillette Stadium on May 29. Of its eight goals on the road, two have been own goals.

"You can almost say at this point there's a curse on us, but there's no excuse, no reason why we don't play well on the road," starting goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. "We really prepared ourselves well this week, but I don't know what happened."

Midfielder Brian Mullan scored in the 17th minute for the Earthquakes (6-6-6), who could've put it out of reach by halftime if not for three close calls: a shot off the crossbar, a shot off the left post and a shot cleared off the goal line.

Fortunate to still be in the game, United pushed hard for the equalizer in the second half and nearly got it on rookie Josh Gros's shot with 20 minutes remaining. But the Earthquakes sealed it in the 82nd minute on a sensational goal by Dwayne De Rosario.

"We didn't come out to play and we could've been down 3-0 -- we were lucky," United midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. "The second half was better, but we didn't create enough chances. We've got to go back to work and turn it around."

United teenager Freddy Adu, who had been playing well of late, began the game on the bench because the club's striking tandem of Jaime Moreno and Alecko Eskandarian was available and midfielder Ben Olsen, just recovering from a quadriceps injury, was cleared to start. Adu entered in the 73rd minute and had the crowd buzzing with his clever footwork, but it wasn't enough to spark a late-game uprising.

Both teams were playing short-handed, United without central defenders Ryan Nelsen and Mike Petke because of injury and the Earthquakes lacking star forward Landon Donovan and defender Troy Dayak because of suspension.

Even without Donovan, San Jose is a dangerous attacking team, spearheaded by all-star striker Brian Ching, who came into the evening tied with Carlos Ruiz of Los Angeles for the MLS goal-scoring lead at 10. The question was how long United's makeshift backline of Ezra Hendrickson, Brandon Prideaux and Bryan Namoff could absorb the pressure.

San Jose threatened in the sixth minute as Richard Mulrooney crossed nicely from the right end line, but the unmarked Ching sent his one-time volley wide from six yards. United briefly stirred and had two decent chances, including an inexplicable miss by Hendrickson off Earnie Stewart's well-placed corner kick.

Almost predictably, United's defense cracked in the 17th minute, failing to clear a bouncing ball in the penalty area. Mullan smacked an eight-yard angled shot past Perkins. Namoff's desperate lunge at the goal line only guided the ball into the net, where it was destined to end up anyway.

The Earthquakes nearly doubled their lead in the 32nd minute off another rickety defensive effort by United, but Craig Waibel's shot off an uncleared corner kick was cleared off the goal line by Namoff.

Ching's header hit the crossbar in the 38th minute and De Rosario nicked the left post two minutes later.

When halftime arrived, United trudged to the locker room, fortunate to be trailing by only a goal.

The first 25 minutes of the second half were a standoff before United created its best opportunity of the evening, an 18-yard bid by Gros that the extended San Jose keeper Pat Onstad barely tipped wide of the left post.

But the Earthquakes made it 2-0 on an emphatic goal by De Rosario, who rocketed a 16-yard volley into the top of the net off Mullan's end-line cross.

United, in third place in the mediocre Eastern Conference, will play two home games next week -- Wednesday vs. Colorado and Saturday vs. New England.

Namoff, however, is expected to miss the Colorado match because of an accumulation of yellow cards, further depleting the shaky defensive corps.

"We've got to win those two games," Kovalenko said. "They're so important. We can't keep losing games."

* CREW 2, REVOLUTION 2: Columbus extended its unbeaten streak to six, tying New England in Foxboro, Mass.

* BURN 1, RAPIDS 0: Eddie Johnson scored on a penalty kick in second-half injury time to give Dallas the win at home.

D.C. United and Alecko Eskandarian, left, take another step backward in a 2-0 loss to Ryan Cochrane, San Jose. D.C. hasn't won a league game since July 3.