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San Jose Earthquakes can’t capitalize on momentum, lose 3-1 to DC United

SAN JOSE, Calif. — At full strength, but without a full effort, the San Jose Earthquakes lost 3-1 to DC United at Avaya Stadium Saturday night. The hosts staked the visitors to a three-goal lead in the first half and never recovered, dropping their second straight game at home.

“We came out totally wrong,” Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We created mistakes with the ball. We couldn’t press them good enough and they could easily find space behind us. To be frank, they were much better than us this evening.”

The Quakes (2-6-3, nine points) were celebrating Retro Night at Avaya Stadium, going back in time for an everything ‘80s themed evening. Unfortunately, they allowed lowly DC United (2-5-2, eight points), which entered the game with the worst record in MLS, to crash the party, failing to heed that seminal line from the 1983 classic The Return of the Jedi — “It’s a trap!”

San Jose was coming off two tough road games earlier this week in which they earned four points, and the team was feeling more confidence than at any point this season. However, they couldn’t deny their tired legs, and against an opponent that entered the game with an 0-5-1 road record, they fell victim to too many mistakes of their own doing.

“Obviously, there were some bad decisions from the coach in setting the lineup and the technical things,” Stahre added. “We conceded three goals in the first half, and it was an absolute disaster. My bad.”

DC’s first goal came in the 15th minute, as some casual defending allowed Luciano Acosta to float a pass beyond the back line and into the path of Zoltan Stieber. With Florian Jungwirth on his shoulder, the Hungarian calmly shot to the far post to put the visitors up 1-0.

The Quakes’ next gift came five minutes later, as Vako’s squared pass to Jackson Yueill was easily intercepted by Acosta in the attacking third. The Argentine playmaker slipped the loose ball into Darren Mattocks, who seconds later beat Andrew Tarbell to make it 2-0.

May 19, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; D.C. United midfielder Zoltan Stieber (18) celebrates with a gesture after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Yueill was again the victim of some sloppy play, as he lost the ball 30 yards from goal on a challenge by Mattocks. Yamil Asad capitalized on the giveaway to stretch DCU’s lead to 3-0.

“Our energy was fantastic,” DC head coach Ben Olsen said. “We looked fresh. I know they had some games recently, and that probably played a little bit into us looking sharper at times. However, we were very disciplined throughout the game, and we pressed in the right way. Overall, it was a pretty good performance for us.”

San Jose was stunned, but the offense tried to rally. Danny Hoesen, who took seven shots in the first half, finally found the back of the net in the 43rd minute, finishing off his own rebound to give the Quakes a lifeline going into intermission.

Down two goals and with nothing to lose, head coach Mikael Stahre brought in Chris Wondolowski to start the second half. The captain replaced rookie Chris Wehan, who had been given his first MLS start, as the Quakes looked to their talisman to turn things around.

“It’s tough because we would play well at times, string together a couple of passes, then came the self-inflicted wounds, and the next thing you know we had to dig ourselves out of a hole,” Wondolowski said. “We had to chase the game, which you don’t want to do against DC.”

The gamble was risky, as San Jose’s defense was put under all sorts of pressure from a counterattacking DC side, and the stakes were raised even further when Quincy Amarikwa came in for Yueill, bolstering the offense, but leaving the back line out to dry.

Tarbell and his crew somehow kept United off the board, making blocks and stops from all angles, as they threw everyone forward. Wondolowski was closest to scoring on numerous occasions, but goalkeeper David Ousted orchestrated a perfect defensive stand for DC over the closing stanza.

“We knew what we were doing coming in here, and we knew DC was going to be a tough team,” said Wondolowski, “but we were excited to come home, and I definitely feel for the fans. It was not fair to them, that performance, and we all apologize for that.”

The loss dropped the Quakes home record to 1-3-1, the worst mark in the West, and they must now regroup ahead of an important game against rivals LA Galaxy Friday night in Carson.

“It is really, really hard to deal with this defeat, especially in this way,” Stahre said. “The performance today, especially in the first half, was really, really poor. Maybe one of the worst performances so far.”

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