United falls to Earthquakes 2-1

WASHINGTON -- D.C. United were undone by a classic case of smash-and-grab soccer from the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday afternoon, crashing to a 2-1 defeat at RFK Stadium as Ramon Sanchez -- who received lavish postgame adulation from several dozen members of Washington's Salvadoran population -- and Ryan Johnson notched two second-half goals to deal a crushing blow to Unitedís playoff prospects.D.C. was the better side by some margin in the first half and controlled possession throughout, but lost starting goalkeeper Josh Wicks to a shoulder injury just after halftime and blew a 1-0 lead while the visitors defended stoutly and made the most of their scoring chances.Right from the opening whistle, the home side summarily set up camp in San Jose's end of the field, looking to test Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Weber early on. Weber was deputizing for Joe Cannon as San Jose coach Frank Yallop elected to leave his veteran netminder back in California for some well-deserved rest after 65 consecutive starts, handing the University of New Mexico product -- and former United backup -- his first-ever MLS start.Luciano Emilio popped up at the far post on an 18th-minute corner kick and leaped high to thump a strong header down towards the goal line, but it bounced too early and flew over Weber's crossbar. The Earthquakes finally got forward long enough to earn a corner kick in the 26th minute and Johnson's flick-on was nearly converted by Ramiro Corrales at the back post. But United dodged the bullet and quickly jetted the other way to deliver one of their own.Chris Pontius strode into acres of space along the D.C. left and looped a low cross into the box towards Moreno, who alertly attacked the bouncing ball and turned towards goal with a classy first touch before slotting a low, left-footed finish underneath Weber's left arm to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. San Jose struck back almost immediately, however, when Sanchez latched onto a loose ball in the D.C. penalty box and curled a perceptive lofted ball into the path of Simon Elliott at the top of the restraining arc. The New Zealander hammered a sharp first-timer that seemed destined to skip just inside the left post, but Wicks threw himself to his right to make an athletic save.Quaranta switched wings with Pontius around the half-hour mark and nearly victimized Quakes defender Bobby Burling just moments later, nipping in to steal the youngster's poor first touch and slapping a close-range shot that was well-blocked by a desperate intervention from Jason Hernandez. United saw another goal-bound effort cleared off the line seconds afterward as the Black-and-Red continued to apply pressure.San Jose surged out of their own end two minutes before the intermission, though, and seemed to have drawn level when Chris Leitch dropped a curling far-post cross onto Johnson's head for the burly forward to thump past Wicks. But the effort was waved off by the assistant referee's flag as Johnson was deemed to have strayed offside. Wicks' day ended prematurely after he chased an outswinging corner kick way off his line in the 49th minute. The D.C. goalkeeper threw his hand up to block Johnson's header and the two tangled arms, dislocating Wicks' shoulder in the process and forcing Soehn to replace him with rookie Milos Kocic.The Serbian had to pick the ball out of his own net less than 10 minutes later when San Jose made the most of a threatening set piece opportunity at the top of United's 18-yard box after a foul by Julius James. Sanchez stepped up to the set piece and whipped a glorious left-footed finish over the D.C. wall and into the top right corner of the net, giving Kocic no chance and drawing the Quakes level against the run of play.United thought they'd earned a penalty kick in the 68th minute when Moreno's teasing feed for Pontius drew Weber off his line. Pontius reached the ball just before the 'keeper's arrival and hit the turf under his challenge, but referee Baldomero Toledo ignored the penalty appeals and instead issued Pontius a yellow card for simulation.Momentum had turned in the visitors' direction and they threatened on a glancing header from Chris Wondolowski before seizing the lead on a quirky sequence in the 73rd minute. The play was keyed by an assertive run from second-half substitute Arturo Alvarez that caught the D.C. back line all at sea, and as Kocic advanced off his line, Clyde Simms tried to blocked Alvarez's initial shot only for it to carom off his thigh, onto the crossbar and into the path of Johnson. The target man stooped to nod the ball into an unguarded net, giving San Jose a 2-1 advantage and shocking the home crowd into momentary silence. James ventured forward and nearly netted his first United goal with a powerful header off a corner kick, only to snap the bid just wide of Weber's right post. Later, an excellent cross from Quaranta set Pontius up with an even better chance, but with the goal gaping, the rookie from California could not keep his header on target. Pontius soon atoned for that miscue with a savvy bicycle kick after Weber failed to deal with a cross into the goalmouth, but Corrales produced a goal-line clearance in the nick of time. Emilio saw a similar effort blocked wide and D.C. desperately searched for a late winner right down to the final seconds of injury time, but came up empty -- and saw their MLS playoff hopes take a huge hit as a result.With the loss, United fell out of the top eight in the MLS overall table and the wild card positions. United play host to San Juan Jabloteh in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday before playing host to Chivas USA next Saturday, one of their final three games.SCORING SUMMARY
DC: Jaime Moreno 8 (Chris Pontius 3, Ben Olsen 1) 26SJ: Ramon Sanchez 2 (unassisted) 58SJ: Ryan Johnson 9 (unassisted) 73MISCONDUCT SUMMARY
SJ: Brandon McDonald (caution; Reckless Foul) 28DC: Rodney Wallace (caution; Reckless Foul) 54DC: Chris Pontius (caution; Simulation) 68Referee: Baldomero ToledoReferee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; James Conlee4th official: Jeff GontarekTime of game: 1:51Attendance: 14,375Weather: Cloudy -and- 72 degrees