- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

D.C. United has developed a habit this season of leaving the hard work until late in games. Five of the club’s matches have been decided in the closing minutes, a trend that has led one commentator to call United’s pattern of play “cardiac soccer.”

While the ability to score clutch goals is a big plus for the team, United would like to make quick work of the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night at RFK Stadium.

“We’ve been talking a lot in the locker room about finishing games off early,” United midfielder Clyde Simms said. “We need to kill off games and try and play the way we played in the first half of our last game [against New England].”

That game produced a finish United would like to forget. The club suffered a 2-1 road loss Saturday when a controversial penalty kick was awarded to the Revolution in the 90th minute. United dominated the first 45 minutes with one of its best performances of the season before letting its play slip in the second half.

In other games, late heroics have helped United. Three ties have been salvaged with goals scored in the final five minutes. In a stunning April comeback, United scored goals in the 90th and 91st minutes to snatch a 3-2 win at New York.

“The part I really evaluate is the plus and minus, and we’ve got to make sure our pluses are way higher,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “That means we are winning games early or late - but we are winning games.”

United’s players are still smarting from the New England loss. Defender Bryan Namoff was whistled for pulling down Revolution striker Taylor Twellman, but replays showed there was little serious contact between the two and that the ensuing penalty kick was perhaps a harsh call. Still, United probably should have wrapped up the game in the first half when it dominated play.

“We are not getting the calls, and likewise there have been some mental errors,” Namoff said. “We’ve got to put complete games together, and a good performance for 90 minutes is what we expect [against the Red Bulls] in order to get over this hump right now.”

United (3-2-7, 16 points) has recently poured plenty of pain on the Red Bulls, beating them twice this season and scoring eight goals.

“They will want to beat us like a stepchild,” United goalie Josh Wicks said. “The game at their place left a bitter taste in their mouth, and in the U.S. Open Cup game, we scored five goals against them.”

While United is still unbeaten at home (2-0-4), it has thrown away eight points with four ties.

“In our home building you never consider a tie,” Soehn said. “It’s a must-win situation. We haven’t done a good job at home so far.”

United will be missing midfielder Ben Olsen for the third straight game because of a hamstring injury. Playmaker Christian Gomez, who sat out Saturday’s loss with a toe injury, is listed as probable.

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