Despite an improved effort, D.C. United is still waiting on their first win in 2016. A header from Patrick Nyarko gave the Black-and-Red a first half lead against the San Jose Earthquakes, but the home side snatched a late equalizer through Adam Jahn to earn themselves a 1-1 draw. The late goal echoed history a bit, as the first-ever MLS match - played nearly exactly 20 years ago - saw the Quakes score an 86th minute game-winner against United.
San Jose came out looking for the early goal. A long ball over the Black-and-Red's back four took an odd carom off of Chris Wondolowski's back, allowing the USMNT striker to keep the play alive. After a couple of passes, left back Shaun Francis whipped in a promising right-footed cross at the near post. Quincy Amarikwa and Tommy Thompson crashed the goal along with Nick DeLeon, who managed to just barely nod the ball over the goal under intense pressure to concede a corner.
United half-cleared that corner, but Thompson - starting in place of the injured Anibal Godoy - gathered the loose ball and picked out a wide-open Wondolowski at the far post. Wondolowski's side-footed volley beat Travis Worra only to skip a foot or so from Amarkiwa's lunge and a yard wide of the opposite post.
Referee Fotis Bazakos had a busy couple of minutes soon thereafter. In the 15th minute, Sean Franklin charged onto a loose ball following a midfield collision. With San Jose unprepared, Franklin tackled the ball off of center back Andres Imperiale, putting Fabian Espindola into a great position. Unfortunately, Bazakos ignored the clear advantage and blew the whistle to give United a free kick stemming from the initial collision.
Moments later, San Jose surged up the field, with winger Alberto Quintero initially gaining a step on Franklin. Franklin recovered to cut off Quintero's angle to goal, and the Panama national team regular opted to toss himself to the ground in search of a penalty kick call. Bazakos was unmoved, however, firmly waving for Quintero to get up.
Matias Perez Garcia - replacing suspended starter Simon Dawkins - curled a shot across the frame and just wide of Worra's left-hand post in the 19th minute, but there was a bigger threat coming. A 25th minute long ball found Amarikwa holding off Bobby Boswell, and the well-traveled striker laid the ball back to Wondolowski. Wondolowski cleverly one-touched the ball right back through the channel nearest Amarikwa, sending his strike partner through. Amarikwa struck a venomous shot on frame, but Worra had closed the angle and made the save. Amarikwa lunged after the rebound, but floated an effort well over the bar.
The Black-and-Red would respond with the opening goal. Chris Rolfe, dropping off the front line to conduct play, juked his way past Fatai Alashe before rolling an inch-perfect pass wide left to the onrushing Lamar Neagle. With time and space, Neagle fired in a driven cross that froze David Bingham to his line. Nyarko, charging into the middle undetected, arrived on the scene to easily nod the ball past Bingham from point-blank range.
The Quakes thought they had an instant equalizer. A Francis cross from the left found Wondolowski at the back post, and the San Jose star nodded the ball back across the frame and into the goalmouth. Amarikwa had an easy tap-in with Worra having to protect his near post, but the goal was called back for offside. Replays showed that the far side assistant referee got the call right, as Amarikwa was a full yard beyond the defense.
Jared Jeffrey, standing in for the suspended Marcelo Sarvas, had a slow start to the match but grew into the game. In the 39th minute, his strong work in central midfield saw him tackle Alashe to win the ball, and then he toe-poked a through ball in for Espindola despite a challenge from burly center back Victor Bernardez. Espindola dashed onto the pass ahead of Marvell Wynne, but his rasping low shot across goal skipped wide.
Early in the second half, Worra had to produce a big stop. A clever diagonal ball from Thompson found Quintero running in behind Franklin. Franklin initially took a good angle to arrive first, but he slipped just as both players approached the ball. Quintero, now completely unmarked, had Amarikwa and Wondolowski storming the area, but his low cross was anticipated by Worra. United's young goalkeeper dove low to block the cross with his left arm, preventing what otherwise would have been a sure goal.
United replied with a great chance from Neagle's 54th minute corner kick. His driven delivery forced Bingham to stay on his line as the ball flew at the back post. Unfortunately for the Black-and-Red, the ball was just inches out of reach at the back post for both Boswell and Steve Birnbaum (both unmarked after a smart set piece).
Neagle was involved again as the visitors went even closer to increasing their lead just a minute later. Nyarko fed Espindola down the middle, where Imperiale hacked his countryman down (picking up a yellow card in the process). With three players standing over a free kick from dead center and about 24 yards out, Neagle curled the ball over the wall. With Bingham arriving late, the former Seattle Sounders winger was denied only by the crossbar.
Worra and Bingham traded a few routine saves in the minutes that followed as both teams found shooting opportunities only to end up firing directly at the keepers. Perhaps the best chance came in the 69th minute, as Taylor Kemp used a series of step-overs to fool Wynne and get into the box. Kemp's low cross looked inviting, but Bingham arrived just ahead of Neagle to grab the service.
Players from both sides frequently slipped on what looked to be a sub-par playing surface, and United nearly paid for it in the 79th minute. A routine cross from substitute Shea Salinas looked like easy work for Birnbaum, but he slipped just as he went to take his step to the ball. Wondolowski collected the ball and spun towards goal, but Franklin arrived to provide a spectacular block inside the 6 yard box.
Luciano Acosta - on in place of Rolfe in the 76th minute - nearly made an immediate impact. An 80th minute feint froze Wynne near midfield, and Acosta flicked a pass over to Espindola, who was charging into the channel between Wynne and Bernardez. Espindola carried the ball all the way to the edge of the box, where he crushed a shot that flew a yard too high.
Nyarko did very well to beat Innocent Emeghara to an Amarikwa cross in the 82nd minute, but United's winger landed very hard on his lower back as a result. After receiving a minute or so of treatment on the field, a stretcher came out. United had apparently been planning on replacing Espindola with Alvaro Saborio, but instead used their final sub to bring Rob Vincent on for the injured Nyarko.
Kemp provided a very strong tackle inside the United penalty area to deny Amarikwa in the 84th minute before United came close yet again to a second goal just seconds later. Following a half-cleared corner, Boswell stayed forward and the ball was pumped back in. San Jose's attempt to catch him offside failed, but Boswell - attempting a leaping volley - could not make contact, and the ball ended up going harmlessly out of bounds.
A game full of chances seemed destined to have more than one goal, and the Quakes finally leveled the scores in the 88th minute. Espindola, perhaps making a decision influenced by fatigue, opted to try to dribble past Salinas inside United's half after a long throw-in had been cleared. That didn't work at all, and Salinas ended up on the ball with plenty of targets inside the box. Salinas whipped in a cross to the near post to his fellow substitute Adam Jahn. Jahn's falling volley did not hit the ball cleanly, but it was enough to re-direct the ball on goal and past Worra, who appeared to be caught leaning to protect his near post.
Both teams nearly found stoppage-time winners. Acosta won a tackle through sheer effort following a cleared Quakes corner, and United suddenly found themselves with a two-on-two counter attack. Acosta passed wide to Espindola, who drew the defense. With Acosta wide open down the middle, Espindola's attempt to set up his fellow Boca Juniors product was badly over-hit. Acosta chased the ball down, but the attack died soon thereafter.
With virtually the final play of the game, San Jose - who had switched to a 343 in the 82nd minute - went even closer. Wynne's long throw-in was flicked on by Jahn at the near post for Wondolowski, who turned the ball on frame from four yards out. Worra produced his best save of the night, though, and United escaped with a result.
United will return to action next week at RFK Stadium, where they'll play the Vancouver Whitecaps in a run of games that will see them play five home games in their next six outings.