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DC puzzled by refs, but blame themselves

Moreno's ejection, defensive errors doom United to 19th loss

Jaime Moreno

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WASHINGTON — Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to San Jose marked the 19th setback of the 2010 season for D.C. United, and while many of those defeats bear the same hallmarks, there also seem to be no end to the strange circumstances that arise to trip up the Black-and-Red.

Two weeks ago at RFK Stadium, interim coach Ben Olsen and Houston coach Dominic Kinnear were both ejected by referee Alex Prus for leaving their technical areas to shake hands with one another. This weekend the same refereeing crew reacted to a sixth-minute scuffle between United striker Jaime Moreno and Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald by sending both players off with the match still in its infancy.

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For Moreno, a living legend with only a few more games left in his United career, it was the most aggravating – and anticlimactic – turn of events imaginable after he’d earned his first start in more than a month.

“I was punched and I pushed him back and he headbutted me,” said the Bolivian of his exchange with McDonald. “I don’t know what the linesman saw … I would like him to show me what I did, but I got sent off and I didn’t even retaliate. I don’t know what they saw.”

Moreno’s teammates responded well to the setback, dominating possession and probing the visitors’ defense for the rest of the first half.

Yet with two moments of indecision, United defenders -- first right back Jordan Graye, then goalkeeper Troy Perkins – gave Chris Wondolowski clear looks at goal on either side of the intermission and the Earthquakes striker, who is enjoying a breakout year in San Jose, buried his opportunities with two excellent finishes.

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“It’s a bit comical because you give up two chances,” said D.C. defender Jed Zaynor afterwards. “The first one’s kind of a half-chance and he hits an impossible shot. Second one, it’s a pretty good chance but still, he sneaks it into the near post where no one is – it’s unbelievable. It’s crazy how these goals are going in, and they’re not going in for us.”

San Jose were outplayed by their hosts for long periods, but with a classic display of savvy counterattacking away from home, Frank Yallop’s side gave United a reminder of what they’ve been missing for most of this harsh campaign.

“Right now they know how to win,” said Zaynor of the ‘Quakes, “and that’s what it takes.”

Once again, United may have good reason to feel star-crossed and luckless. But a whopping 19 losses in league play, there’s no denying that the same flaws and mistakes keep cropping up week after week — and with similar consequences on the scoreboard.

“In the end, regardless of the referee, we still have issues. It wasn’t their fault tonight,” said D.C. boss Ben Olsen. “It was our fault and we fouled up two plays again. We’ve got to live with it. Every play counts.”