By AVI CREDITOR
WASHINGTON — Chris Korb's likely return to D.C. United's starting lineup could not come at a more convenient time for the Ohio native.
With Robbie Russell suffering a foot injury at Houston Sunday and out for "somewhere in the month-plus region," according to D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, Korb will be looked at to fill in at right back starting with Saturday's match at the Columbus Crew. Korb, who grew up about three hours north of Columbus in Gates Mills, said he is fielding more ticket requests than usual and has had his eye on this game for some time. Should the second-year fullback get the start, it will be his second at Crew Stadium as a professional after playing 90 minutes there last October.
"I always love going back to Ohio," Korb said. "As soon as the schedule came out, this is one of the games that you circle. I've got a bunch of family and friends coming up, so it'll be nice."
Starting for D.C. is nothing new for Korb, who did so 12 times as a rookie last year and has started seven games (played in 11) this season even with the offseason acquisition of Russell. D.C. coach Ben Olsen has no qualms about turning to the University of Akron product.
"It's always a difficult spot as a young guy to be in and out of the lineup and stay with your rhythm, especially when you haven't had a lot of reserve games," Olsen said. "He's a gamer, and he'll be fine.
"He actually gets forward pretty well and has qualities that Robbie doesn't, so that's a good thing."
One of the tasks Korb may have to handle is shutting down second-year Columbus forward Justin Meram, who should be in line for a start with Emilio Renteria suspended for Saturday's match. While at Akron, Korb got the chance to match up with Meram, a star at Michigan, most notably during the semifinals of the 2010 NCAA College Cup. Meram, who has three goals for the Crew this season, won the golden boot at that tournament with five goals, including one against Korb's Zips in Michigan's 2-1 loss.
"He's a great player," Korb said. "He's someone we have to watch out for. He can pull that special play out of nowhere. He's always someone to keep an eye on, and he's had a good year so far when he's been in."
WILLIS GETS THE CALL
With goalkeeper Bill Hamid suspended for a match after picking up a red card and being sent off in D.C.'s loss to Houston on Sunday, Joe Willis will get another chance to start between the posts.
Willis stepped into the starting role while Hamid was away on Olympic qualification duty and maintained the job even when Hamid returned until eventually giving way after conceding five goals to the San Jose Earthquakes on May 2. Following up nine straight starts with eight games of inactivity, Willis returned to the field for 72 minutes against the Dynamo, nearly saving Brad Davis' penalty kick upon his introduction and robbing Davis of a would-be golazo with a full-extension save before Houston exploited its man-advantage in the 4-0 result.
"I still think he's far above our expectations of where we drafted him, that's for sure," Olsen said of the 6-foot-5 Willis, a third-round pick (50th overall) in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Denver. "He's a very good No. 2 and potentially a very good No. 1 in this league at some point.
"The problem is he hasn't had enough of an opportunity to prove himself over a long stint, because we have another good young goalkeeper that we believe in as well. This is another chance for him to show that we can continue to rely on him. We have a lot of faith in him. I love his demeanor and the way he goes about his job every day."
OLSEN READIES FOR ALL-STAR GAME
Following D.C.'s game at Columbus, Olsen will turn his attention to the MLS All-Star Game. As coach of the MLS All-Stars, Olsen selected five players in addition to the fan-voted First XI, adding D.C.'s Chris Pontius, Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso and Eddie Johnson and Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
Olsen, a Philadelphia-area native, said he will go up to Philadelphia on Sunday to visit family and friends before getting to work on trying to guide MLS to a victory over Chelsea at PPL Park next Wednesday. Olsen caught some of Chelsea's 4-2 win over Seattle, taking note of the Blues' performance.
"They looked good. Pretty sharp on the counterattack," Olsen said, before reverting to his trademark sarcasm. "They got a couple good players out there. A couple."