United not overlooking Red Bulls

WASHINGTON -- Despite their recent dominance over the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United are determined to take nothing for granted ahead of the teams' primetime Thursday night matchup at RFK Stadium.United have scored eight goals in two meetings with New York this season, one a comeback league win at Giants Stadium and the other a freewheeling 5-3 U.S. Open Cup play-in match at RFK that saw D.C. up 4-0 after less than half an hour. But the Black-and-Red are doing their level best to banish those memories this week."I don't know, I think that makes it tougher on us," said Chris Pontius on Tuesday. "They're going to be trying to get back at us so we've got to go into this game how we approach every one, and just get after them early."Pontius and his roommate Rodney Wallace combined for four goals and an assist in those two victories over the Red Bulls. But neither rookie expects things to be easy against a team that has lost two more matches since that setback in D.C. and now sits in last place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings. With just nine points from 12 games, New York finds itself in real danger of being cut adrift from the pack."It makes it that much harder the third time around," said Wallace. "I think they're going to come out with a little more fire. ... But we're confident in ourselves and we're at home."While just about everything went right for United in their last tussle with the Red Bulls, they are fresh off an occasion which featured the opposite predicament. Saturday's trip to New England saw D.C. control play in the first 45 minutes but only notching one goal from that dominance exposed them to a second-half Revs fightback that culminated in a late, late Steve Ralston winner on a questionable, stoppage-time penalty kick."Saturday was a hard loss for us," said Pontius. "You're going to have your games where everything seems to go in and you're going to have your games when nothing's going in. In that game, nothing was going in for us."D.C. coach Tom Soehn was bitterly disappointed by referee Hilario Grajeda's 90th-minute decision at Gillette Stadium but has urged his team to show far greater ruthlessness and tenacity in the days ahead."I'm done talking about the refs," said Soehn. "We all saw it and it's a misfortune again. That's unfortunately something that we can't control. But what we can control is making sure that we put teams away and know how to finish off games, which we have to get better at."Everybody knows that in the course of 90 minutes there's times where you're better, times the other team is better. We also have to recognize that and be able to handle whatever the situation holds and know that if you score a goal, it should be good enough to win the game."The Red Bulls strike force have proven themselves exceedingly capable of breaking down United's back line this season and Juan Pablo Angel, Dane Richards and company will present plenty of menace over 90 minutes on Thursday.Conversely, the United attack ranked as the league's best not long ago but the front line's performances have been schizophrenic lately, often lacking the finishing touch needed to reflect D.C.'s creativity on the scoreboard. It's a psychological impediment that Santino Quaranta and his mates are eager to conquer."We've got to keep our shape defensively and stay organized. With our midfield, we seem to keep the ball pretty well," said the D.C. veteran. "I think we just have to finish our chances off. We've been creating a lot. So hopefully this week we can put a couple goals in there, and try to finish the game off in the first half like we should've in New England."