Playoff picture grim after loss to Chivas USA

WASHINGTON -- With their playoff dreams hanging in the balance, D.C. United urgently needed a victory over Chivas USA on their home ground on Saturday night. But a nightmare was what they got instead, as they lost the midfield battle to their West Coast visitors all evening and fell two goals behind before falling a man short thanks to Ben Olsen's astonishing ejection, eventually crashing to a 2-0 loss that leaves them languishing on the margins of the MLS postseason picture.An own goal after a shot from Maicon Santos and one tallied by Jesus Padilla paced the Red-and-White, who are now well-positioned for a wild card berth.In choosing his first XI, D.C. coach Tom Soehn rolled the dice to some extent, fielding a youngish but dangerous-looking lineup spearheaded by Chris Pontius with Boyzzz Khumalo and Santino Quaranta in wide supporting positions and playmaker Chrisian Gomez floating in the "hole." Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms sat deep in midfield, while Dejan Jakovic paired with Julius James in central defense, the Canadian internationalís first start since undergoing sports hernia surgery in early September.Both sides struggled to sustain possession in the early stages, though Chivas USA frontrunner Justin Braun carved out the game's first clear chance in the 15th minute when he slipped inside of Marc Burch in pursuit of Sacha Kljestan's clever pass into the United box. But the ball was always running away from Braun and he could not wrap his foot around it properly, skimming his shot into the outside of the net. D.C. goalkeeper Milos Kocic had to be alert to the big striker's danger four minutes later when he jumped highest to meet Kljestan's lofted cross to the far post, thumping a downward header that nearly bounced underneath the rookie netminder -- but Kocic produced a sharp kick save to block the bid.Braun continued to shine brightly for the visitors, skimming a left-footed blast off the top of Kocic's crossbar in the 32nd minute, but a minute later it was his strike partner Maicon Santos who would break the scoreless deadlock, aided by a sizeable helping of good fortune. While his teammates were chasing and pressing D.C. relentlessly, Kljestan's incisive passing from the left flank was asking questions of the United defense and his angled feed to Santos allowed the Brazilian to body up on James in the D.C. box, then spin away to unleash a low shot. The effort beat Kocic but smacked the post, only to carom back off the woodwork, hit the prone 'keeper's back and dribble over the line for a 1-0 Chivas lead.Though Kocic was a step slow on the initial shot, the quirky bounce was viciously poor luck for the rookie, making his third-ever MLS start in goal. Stunned by that bad break, United almost responded on a subsequent corner kick that fell kindly for Jakovic, but the big center back could not direct his shot on target and a quick-thinking Khumalo was unable to redirect the wayward effort on net.The United supporters' groups had serenaded club legend Jaime Moreno just before kickoff and began to chant his name again after their team went down a goal, and they got their wish two minutes before halftime when Soehn inserted the Bolivian in place of Gomez, who was clearly frustrated to be subbed out so early. Soehn made another change at halftime, bringing Fred on for Khumalo, but the visitors started the second stanza far more brightly as Jesus Padilla made the most of another lucky break to double Chivas USAís advantage in the 53rd minute.The Mexican-American playmaker was chasing after Jonathan Bornstein's booming free kick into the United box, and what initially looked like a lost cause turned into a golden opportunity when his header ricocheted off the back of Burchís head and sat up perfectly for Padilla to lash into the net. Yet again, United was hard done by on the play, but it could easily be said that their hard-working opponents had earned their luck and the nightmarish turn of events saw RFK's large crowd turn unnaturally quiet.Matters slipped from bad to worse -- much worse -- for the Black-and-Red a short while later when Olsen lost his temper in stunning fashion. Chivas USA defender Yamith Cuesta had been throwing his body around all game and while referee Kevin Stott had deemed most of the contact legal, it was aggravating the home side and when Cuesta lowered his shoulder into Olsen's back right in front of the team benches, United's inspirational midfielder got up and drilled the ball at the retreating Colombian. Stott had just awarded Cuesta a yellow card for his challenge, but he immediately produced a red for Olsen and D.C. had to finish the game shorthanded.Soehn's side had looked second-best for long stretches but they did their best to rally despite the numerical disadvantage. Luciano Emilio had come on for Burch just before Olsen's ejection and an open goal briefly flashed before him when Zach Thornton misjudged a Quaranta corner kick in the 78th minute, but he popped his reaction header straight up and Thornton recovered to collect the ball.Emilio was handed a much better look in the 82nd minute following Quaranta's hard run and a goal seemed imminent when United's Brazilian hitman spun away from Carey Talley and turned to shoot from 13 yards out, but his mishit effort spun high and wide of the goal as the crowd groaned. SCORING SUMMARY CHV: Own goal (Milos Kocic) 32CHV: Jesus Padilla 1 (unassisted) 53MISCONDUCT SUMMARY DC: Jaime Moreno (caution; Simulation) 56 DC: Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 63 CHV: Yamith Cuesta (caution; Reckless Foul) 65 DC: Ben Olsen (ejection; Violent Conduct) 65 DC: Chris Pontius (caution; Reckless Tackle) 84Referee: Kevin StottReferee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Kermit Quisenberry4th Official: Jeff GontarekTime of Game: 90:00Attendance: 24,175Weather: Clear -and- 74 degrees