D.C. United's hopes are all but over now

D.C. United gave up goals to both halves of the most lethal scoring tandem in Major League Soccer. In doing so, it squandered an ever-so-brief comeback with frustratingly familiar errors in a 2-1 loss to Los Angeles that may have extinguished its playoff hopes once and for all.

"It's almost the definition of insanity," United midfielder Santino Quaranta said. "Because for the guys in this locker room, this is really difficult because I don't know if everybody knows the severity of what's going on. Because I do and some of the coaches do and some of the older guys do. But there's consequences for our actions."

Landon Donovan clinched the win for the league-leading Galaxy (12-2-3) in front of 17,688 at RFK Stadium on a clinical 58th-minute penalty kick given when Julius James tried to deflect Sean Franklin's shot in the box with his arm.

But the sequence began when Franklin stripped D.C. United rookie defender Jordan Graye, who was similarly victimized on Seattle's game-winning goal in the 89th minute three nights earlier.

"I know I've kind of just been hesitating ever since that play last game," said Graye, who might normally be the third option at left back if Marc Burch (broken foot) and Rodney Wallace (broken leg) were healthy.

His gaffe quickly erased the hope that had been restored four minutes earlier on Andy Najar's powerful header off Pablo Hernandez's free kick.

But instead United (3-11-3) again found itself behind, just as it had been when Edson Buddle fired home his MLS-best 11th goal of the year in the 38th minute. Buddle made the most of a second effort after his first was blocked by Dejan Jakovic.

The play started when Franklin headed the ball over Graye and then raced past him to deliver a cross to Buddle.

"He's made some errors that have cost us," United coach Curt Onalfo said. "Unfortunately, that's what young players go through. Just like every one of our players, I care about him, and I want him to learn from it, and we're going to do everything possible to help him."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com