D.C. United knows it was robbed last weekend, when an uncalled handball gave Columbus its first goal in United's eventual 2-0 defeat.

The antidote, for a change, is the larger picture. It is the only loss United has suffered in more than a month, a span of eight matches in all competitions. Of course, United (3-9-1) still remains at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, so it can ill afford to lose any more ground.

"The thing is, points are at a premium, so [a loss] hurts even more," United coach Curt Onalfo said. "But at the end of the day, if you look at the results, there are four teams in MLS that look pretty good to make the playoffs, and there's 12 teams fighting for four spots and eight points separating everybody."

San Jose (5-4-3), United's opponent Saturday, is at the top of that group of a dozen even though it is winless in its last four matches. Two seasons into his return to MLS from England, former United midfielder Bobby Convey has been a key contributor, already posting seven assists to match the career high he set in Washington in 2001.

In last year's trip to Northern California, United had to settle for a 2-2 draw after squandering a two-goal lead it had after a little more than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, United made its latest foray into South America, signing 23-year-old Argentine forward Pablo Hernandez, who will be available once his international paperwork is complete.