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United losing grip on playoff chance

WASHINGTON -- The season-high crowd that filed into RFK Stadium ahead of Saturday night's D.C. United-Chivas USA match was a diverse and festive bunch, with hundreds of Washington-area youth soccer players and their families packing the stands along with United's hard-core supporters groups and a range of other sports fans. Many arrived hours ahead of time to tailgate and take in live music in the RFK parking lots, and the club's pregame "Soctoberfest" celebration even included a Bavarian-style oompah band in the stadium's north end.But the match that unfolded in front of them soon took on the complexion of a horror show, as the home side were comprehensively overpowered by a Chivas USA side whose confident 2-0 victory dealt a hammer blow to United's postseason prospects while significantly bolstering their own.Even though both Chivas tallies had the whiff of luck about them -- one an own goal off D.C. goalkeeper Milos Kocic's back and the other a Jesus Padilla strike that was set up by a quirky double deflection -- United could offer little argument about the final result."I feel like they outworked us a lot today," said a downcast Marc Burch in a hushed D.C. locker room. "Even though they didn't have many chances, they were the better team today. They outworked us, they outran us, they won a lot of balls in the midfield, they won a lot of balls off our forwards and they were making good runs up top and it was tough for us to defend them."United needed a win to keep pace in the crowded MLS playoff race, but Tom Soehn's squad still stumbled out to a mediocre start as the visitors applied suffocating midfield pressure and exploited every hard touch or poor decision by the Black-and-Red. Soehn started with an attack-minded 4-3-3 shape but began making changes before halftime as he watched his side lose the possession battle all evening."Obviously disappointed -- flustered that we could come out and not have real energy in the first half," said Soehn after the match. "I think we've been saying the right things all week and then to come out flat, and them take the game to us, was very disappointing. We tried to energize ourselves and get some legs on, and in the end we didn't have the legs to begin with."The misery was dramatically compounded when veteran midfielder Ben Olsen saw red for his petulant reaction to a violent challenge by Chivas center back Yamith Cuesta in the 65th minute, leaving his side short a man as they chased the game.Cuesta had already muscled Chris Pontius into the endline advertising boards and made a questionable challenge on Jaime Moreno in the penalty area -- though referee Kevin Stott cautioned Moreno for simulation on the play -- so Olsen found himself uncorking an hour's worth of aggravation as he kicked the ball towards the burly Colombian."I was frustrated and I lost my head for a second. I got hit pretty hard and that's it. I left the guys out to dry, which I'm obviously not happy about," said United's fan favorite."They were a better team. They took advantage of us, some of our shortcomings. Obviously after I'm out the game changes -- frankly I thought [United] were better without me out there. And they're a good team, they fight hard, they work hard and [Stott] let a lot go on their end. So I don't know if we really matched that fight early on. That was part of my frustration."After rolling through their first 11 league home games undefeated, D.C. have now lost three consecutive MLS matches at RFK, a dispiriting skid during the most important stage of the campaign -- not to mention a crushing disappointment for the expectant home faithful.Meanwhile, the playoffs remain more distant than ever. United must now win their final two games and hope other results go their way."I feel like all our jobs are on the line. Whether it's Tommy or us as players, we're not getting the job done on the field," said midfielder Clyde Simms. "We let the fans down. The stakes were high tonight and they definitely came out and gave us the support in numbers, and I feel like we let them down so I understand their frustrations."