With its roster in tatters and a once-promising season starting to slip away, D.C. United has taken considerable steps in recent days toward acquiring a foreign player who "we feel could help our team significantly," club president Kevin Payne said late Saturday in San Jose.

Payne, clearly troubled by his team's 5-8-6 record and four-game winless streak following Saturday's 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium, declined to identify the player or his nationality, but did say he is an attacking midfielder who would fill the last slot roster available for an experienced international player (each team is permitted three).

"He's a player with a decent pedigree," Payne said. "We've been working on it for a while and it looks like it's going to happen. We think we can get it done soon."

United -- which has 11 games remaining in the regular season, including two at home this week -- is also hoping to add a forward and a defender this month.

Tim Lawson, who has been playing in the lower levels of German soccer after a high-scoring career at the University of Washington, is high on the team's list. Central back Alexander Yi, a native of Easton, Md., who has been playing in Belgium, would be available in a weighted lottery involving most MLS teams, if he finalizes negotiations with the league. It appears United should have no worse than the third-best chance of winning a lottery.

United has plenty of roster and salary cap space following the transfer of midfielder Bobby Convey to English club Reading two weeks ago, the release of Salvadoran forward Ronald Cerritos early this summer and long-term injuries to three attacking players.

The club is in desperate need of a creative central midfielder in a lineup that includes several blue-collar players. Other than forward Jaime Moreno and perhaps rookie Freddy Adu, no one is capable of dramatically altering a match. That void was evident again Saturday as United created a few scoring chances but was unable to sustain a consistent attack and was hopelessly predictable in its approach.

Since a 6-2 victory over the New York/New Jersey MetroStars on July 3 at RFK Stadium, United has scored two goals (one of which was an own goal by Dallas) and yielded nine during an 0-3-1 stretch.

The Earthquakes, playing before their biggest crowd of the year (19,324), took advantage of United's injury-depleted, and sloppy, defense for their first goal. Failure to clear a loose ball from the penalty area allowed Brian Mullan to rip a low drive past goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 17th minute.

The outcome remained somewhat in doubt deep into the second half because of San Jose's near misses, including a pair of shots off the goal frame and another that was cleared off the goal line by defender Bryan Namoff. But after United rookie Josh Gros provided his team with its best chance to equalize on a low shot that Pat Onstad slapped away, the Earthquakes sealed it on Dwayne De Rosario's sensational volley from 16 yards late in the match.

"The first half we struggled big-time, the second half a bit better soccer-wise, but in the end, they deserved to win, it's as simple as that," midfielder Earnie Stewart said. "We've got to find ways to get over this hump."

United will host Colorado (6-6-8) on Wednesday and New England (4-8-7) on Saturday. . . .

Amado Guevara had a point for the ninth straight game as New York/New Jersey defeated visiting Los Angeles, 3-0. Guevara scored on a penalty kick in the 36th minute; it was his 10th goal of the year.

-- Steven Goff