CARSON, Calif. - On a night when Chivas USA could have moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference table, it was D.C. United who grabbed the spotlight and kept Chivas in fourth place.
Christian Gomez bagged a double as United handed the Red-and-White a 2-1 setback. The loss keeps Chivas (8-7-10, 34 points) in the final playoff position, with both the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are just two points behind.
"In all ways, this is a frustrating loss," Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley said. "We felt it was a really important game. We never really gave ourselves a good chance."
Chivas, however, failed to make a game of it in the second half. The Red-and-White didn't have a single shot in the second half and finished the game with just two shots - a free kick Juan Pablo Garcia hit right at United goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 24th minute and Claudio Suarez's 32nd-minute penalty kick goal.
"We were down a goal all but three minutes for the whole game," Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch said. "They scored and sat back. We finally even it up and we get one again and they just sit back the whole game."
Chivas misfired from the start. Numerous crosses were hit right to Perkins as players failed to provide quality service to Ante Razov. Chivas' eight corner kicks led to nothing and the club was whistled for six offside calls, all in the second half.
"We had the ball a lot, we pushed the game a little bit but in the end we weren't able to break them down and get some good chances," Marsch said.
Chivas goalkeeper Preston Burpo, though, committed the worst mistake. Chivas leveled the game in the 32nd minute. Three minutes prior, United's Facundo Erpen kicked Razov in the face inside the penalty area and Suarez converted the ensuing spot kick.
Immediately thereafter, though, Gomez pounced on a loose ball in the middle of the field and raced past Sacha Kljestan and Francisco Mendoza. He beat Jason Hernandez to the corner of the penalty area and slipped the ball past Burpo into the far post.
Bradley said that was "the kind of mistake you can't afford in a big game."
A breakdown all around, Burpo took the brunt of the blame.
"He knows and we all know that that's a save he makes 999 times out of 1,000," Bradley said.
For the remainder of the first half, fans loudly booed Burpo whenever he touched the ball.
Chivas holds a conference-low eight wins, one fewer than both the Galaxy and RSL. Still, the club has lost just twice over the last 15 games and will play four of its remaining seven games at Home Depot Center.
"Just because you lose one game doesn't mean you go back to the drawing board," Marsch said. "We still feel good about the things we do. We're still a good team. You're going to have games in a season where you're not really able to put your stamp on the game the way you like to."
Marsch said there is still plenty of time to put things together to secure a playoff spot.
"And it's not just that. I don't want to limp into the playoffs," Marsch said. "I want to make sure that when we go into the playoffs we have some momentum, that everybody knows their role on this team so we can make a push."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.