Willis, Korb stepping up for D.C. United

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Roommates moving into starting lineup on Saturday

The double defensive blow that sent D.C. United (10-6-3) on the way to a 4-0 defeat at Houston last weekend, costing it first place in MLS' Eastern Conference, will carry over to the team's next contest at Columbus this weekend. United coach Ben Olsen said he expects starting right back Robbie Russell to miss a month or more with a foot injury aggravated against the Dynamo, adding to the pressure on a unit that will also be without goalkeeper Bill Hamid because of a red-card suspension.

Both players are expected to be replaced in the United lineup by second-year reserves who also happen to be roommates, goalkeeper Joe Willis and defender Chris Korb. Each has also seen plenty of action this season.

Willis filled in after Hamid left for Olympic qualifying in March but didn't give up the job easily, making nine straight starts earlier this season -- a stretch that ended with a 5-3 loss at San Jose on May 2. He hadn't played since until he replaced Hamid in Houston, where he nearly stopped Brad Davis' penalty kick without any warmup.

Up Next
D.C. United at Crew
When » Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV » CSN
D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, who will coach the MLS All-Star team next week, was named to the team's Hall of Tradition and will be inducted in a ceremony at RFK Stadium on Sept. 15.

"I still think he's far above our expectations of where we drafted him, that's for sure," Olsen said. "I think 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."

Korb, who was taken with the 31st overall pick in last year's draft, struggled at times as a rookie with his adjustment to the professional level, in particularly because D.C. wasn't living up to the winning ways to which he had grown accustomed at Akron. While he has primarily been a backup, all but four of his 23 MLS appearances have come in a starting capacity.

"He actually gets forward pretty well and has some qualities that Robbie doesn't," Olsen said. "That's a good thing."

Korb and Willis also share a particular chemistry that comes with knowing each other's habits off the field. The two make up half of a D.C. United foursome -- which also includes midfielders Danny Cruz and Nick DeLeon -- who live together in Alexandria and deal with similar commuting stress as much of the region.

"We carpool a lot," Korb said. "Without it, it'd take two hours to get to practice with all the traffic. HOV saves us every day."

Unless someone needs treatment and needs to go early or stay late.

"Then they're on their own," Korb said. "The three other people stick together, and it only takes like 25 minutes."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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