San Jose Earthquakes ended a 20 game road winless streak Sunday against D.C. United, beating the MLS playoff hopefuls 2-1.
In what amounted to almost a must-win match for United, they failed to capitalize on a chance to move into 6th place in the playoff standings, as they lost for just the second time at home all season in league play.
With the result, United remained in 9th place with 36 points. They have just three games left in league play to earn one of the last playoff spots. The win for San Jose was their 6th of the season, as they moved to 25 points from 25 games.
United needed all three points in this crucial match at home, but their play early on suggested that they might struggle to do so. San Jose, a team long since eliminated from playoff contention, proved to be a worthy opponent early on, as United failed to break dwon their back line.
Defender Marc Burch had the two early chances for United, but both times, his left footed efforts went wide of the goal. Luciano Emilio won a header from a corner in the 17th minute, but the header bounced over the bar.
At the other end, San Jose offered little in attack, as their barrage of long balls failed to challenge a back four that had kept consecutive clean sheets in CONCACAF Champions League games.
The one wrinkle in United's otherwise vanilla attack in the first half produced a goal in the 26th minute. Chris Pontius played a pass out wide for Ben Olsen, who then waited for Pontius to make the overlapping run. Pontius received a pass from Olsen down the left hand flank, and then one timed a cross in towardds the near post for Jaime Moreno. Moreno controlled the ball, took a quick turn, and then slotted a shot under San Jose 'keeper Andrew Weber for the 1-0 lead.
San Jose's response was almost immediate, as a loose ball fell to Simon Elliot at the top of the box just two minutes after the goal. Elliot hit a well placed shot towards the corner of the goal, but United 'keeper Josh Wicks made the save at full stretch, and then pounced on the rebound to avoid any further danger.
Proceedings then returned in favor of United, as they pushed forward looking for a second goal in the match. Pontius had a header cleared off the line on a corner kick, while Olsen and Quaranta tested Weber from distance, to no avail.
In the 44th minute, Ryan Johnson appeared to have equalized for San Jose, as he nodded home a header from a Chris Leitch cross. However, the assistant referee had flagged for offsides, despite replays indicating otherwise. So instead of heading into halftime with the game level, United maintained their advantage after 45 minutes.
It only took moments for the game to take a drastic change for the worse for United, as D.C. was forced to bring off Wicks in the 52nd minute. He chased down a corner at the top of the box, only to get his hand on the ball at the same moment that Johnson got his head on the ball. Wicks' left shoulder was dislocated, and he had to be replaced by Milos Kocic.
San Jose were level minutes later, as Ramon Sanchez scored a wonderful free kick in the 58th minute. Having won a free kick just outside the box, Sanchez won the battel between 4 'Quakes players to take the free kick. His shot was placed over the wall, and snuck in at the near post, leaving Kocic flat-footed.
The series of events seemed to rattle United, as they played the next several minutes of the match without much purpose. San Jose was still not offering much going forward, but United was struggling to connect passes anywhere on the field, and they began to appear frustrated at themselves.
With the outcome in the balance, San Jose began to turn up the heat, with Chris Wondolowski just missing a header from a long throw into the box from defender Brandon McDonald.
Their pressure paid off just moments later, as Johnson scored for San Jose in the 73rd minute. Arturo Alvarez, who came on at halftime, pressured Burch in his own half, and eventually wn the ball. Alvarez took a shot that Clyde Simms deflected off the post. The ball then fell nicely to Johnson, who hit a diving header into the goal before Kocic could recover, for the 2-1 lead.
United had to start pushing forward looking for an equalizer, and their persistence paid off with several decent attempts late on. But Emilio put a header wide from six yards out, and Pontius failed to connect on a cross at the back post in the 81st minute.
Pontius looked ot have a goal in the 82nd minute, as his bicycle attempt caught Weber off of his line. But it was Ramiro Corrales' turn to play hero, as he cleared the would be goal off the line.
Thabiso Khumalo, a second half sub for United, hit the crossbar in the 90th minute, as Quaranta teed him up at the top of the box. United failed to create another chance in the four minutes of stoppage time and San Jose ran out surprising winners.
Steven Streff, Goal.com
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