SANTA CLARA -- A disastrous opening 25 minutes left the last-place Earthquakes in a big hole Friday night after a 2-1 defeat to D.C. United.
Not even a players-only meeting earlier in the week could change the reeling team's fortunes as it lost for the fourth straight game, the past three at home. With 18 games remaining -- 11 on the road -- San Jose is flirting with missing the MLS playoffs two years in a row.
"We weren't good in the first 35 or 40 minutes," Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "It's the same old story."
Eastern Conference-leading United (9-5-4) scored twice before a half-hour and then fought off the Quakes in front of a sellout crowd of 10,525 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
San Jose (4-8-4) showed life in the second half but couldn't break out of its scoring drought despite outshooting the visitors 10-1 after halftime.
It took superior goalkeeping from United's Bill Hamid to preserve the win in the second minute of extra time. He stopped Alan Gordon's point-blank header and then a United defender raced to the line to block Steven Lenhart's follow-up.
Coach Mark Watson said the defeat stung more than ever because for once he had plenty of options with most of the players back from the World Cup or injuries.
Yes, the Quakes outplayed United in the second half, but "to put yourself in a two-goal hole is difficult," Watson said.
San Jose looked DOA in the first half having conceded control of the midfield by failing to get attacking player Yannick Djalo involved.
The atmosphere improved in the 39th minute with Chris Wondolowski's welcome-back goal that glanced off a defender and past Hamid to make it 2-1. The goal ended almost 400 scoreless minutes after three straight 1-0 shutout defeats.
But it was United that got in the first punches. Eddie Johnson scored on a penalty kick in the 12th minute after fullback Brandon Barklage was called for a handball in the box. In the 25th minute, Chris Rolfe sent a low ball from the left across the goalmouth where a sliding Luis Silva nicked it past defender Clarence Goodson and Busch. It came after a bad giveaway by the San Jose defense.
Watson had his most complete lineup since Wondolowski joined the U.S. national team in mid-May. Honduras defender Victor Bernardez also was back from Brazil.
Three players who missed the previous two games because of injuries also returned: Goodson (groin) and midfielder Atiba Harris (hamstring) started while Shea Salinas (abdomen), who entered the game in the 67th minute.
Earthquakes (4-8-4) at New York (4-5-8), 4 p.m. CSN-Plus