WASHINGTON -- The Earthquakes arrived in the nation's capital without 2012 Major League Soccer MVP Chris Wondolowski, and the team's short-handed offense never mustered a breakthrough Saturday against a squad that hadn't posted a league victory in more than three months.
The Quakes ceded an 11th-minute penalty kick goal to Chris Pontius and lost 1-0 to bottom-dwelling D.C. United at RFK Stadium, unable to build on the momentum of last week's road victory in Colorado, with Wondolowski sidelined by a bruised right foot.
"We'll keep it positive," said interim coach Mark Watson after his second match leading the team. "Other than giving away the early penalty and going down 1-0, I thought our performance was excellent. ... As a coach, the things you ask for from your team, I thought the players responded 100 percent tonight."
D.C. United (2-11-3, 9 points) entered with a club-record winless streak that spanned 13 matches dating to March 9, in large part because of its own anemic offense.
But the Quakes (4-7-6, 18 points) spent most of Saturday's match playing from behind after defender Justin Morrow was whistled for a foul in the box that Watson called "somewhat dubious."
When D.C. United's Chris Korb broke free on the right side of the box in the ninth minute, Morrow slid to break up the play and Korb took a tumble. Referee Jair Marrufo initially appeared to signal for play to continue, but assistant James Conlee had raised his flag for a foul and Marrufo opted to award a penalty kick.
Pontius stepped up and drilled a low drive into the right side of the net, with goalie Jon Busch diving the other way, for his first goal of the season.
"Putting ourselves in a hole makes it's hard to keep coming back like that," said Morrow, who also disputed the foul call. "Once they get up a goal, they're really going to bunker in and try to get a result."
The Quakes, who also were without forward Steven Lenhart (knee), pressed for the equalizer late, managing their most promising offensive chances after halftime.
Midfielder Shea Salinas had several quality opportunities, including a 10-yard blast in the 61st minute that D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid punched away. Forward Adam Jahn struck the left post with a left-footed attempt from the edge of the 18-yard box in the 73rd minute.
Hamid, a member of the U.S. national team, stopped three shots to record his fourth shutout of the season. The Quakes were held scoreless for the seventh time this year ahead of next Saturday's anticipated showdown at Stanford Stadium against the L.A. Galaxy.
"We had a lot of good chances tonight," Martin said, "and we're feeling a little bit unfortunate that one didn't sneak in."
Los Angeles (6-6-3) at Earthquakes (4-7-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA