D.C. United left back Chris Korb will miss a month with a hamstring injury, the latest setback for an ailing MLS club.
Korb, a fourth-year pro who has started 13 games this season, was injured while chasing a counterattack on the final sequence of a 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on Saturday. A week earlier, Korb had skipped the trip to Houston because of tightness in the same hamstring. He passed all tests in the build-up to the Real match and did not have any additional problems until the very end, team officials said.
Korb joins four others on the sideline: Second-choice goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra (Achilles’ tendon) and reserve forward Conor Doyle (knee) are done for the season, starting defender Jeff Parke (migraines) is out indefinitely and back-up forward Michael Seaton (quadriceps) will miss a few more weeks.
Korb’s injury came the same day forward Fabian Espindola returned from a two-month absence. United’s top scorer had been out with a knee injury caused by Montreal’s Felipe Martins.
With Korb unavailable, second-year pro Taylor Kemp (seven career starts) becomes the first option at left back. In the Houston game, his first start of the season, the former Maryland Terrapin had some shaky moments.
“We believe in Taylor Kemp,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We have a lot of faith in Taylor. He has grown a lot this year. He’ll be relied on and he’ll do fine. … He is obviously next in line there.”
United remains in the market for depth at the outside back positions, but with the international deadline passed and a scarcity of available domestic players on the left and right corners, Kemp and veteran midfielder Lewis Neal might be Olsen’s only viable options. MLS’s roster freeze is Sept. 15.
The injuries come at a vulnerable time for United (11-7-4), which is recovering from its poorest defensive effort in months and is bracing for the busiest stretch of the season. Beginning Sunday with a visit by the Colorado Rapids, D.C. will play five games over 15 days, including the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League opener next Wednesday against Jamaica’s Waterhouse at RFK Stadium.
Reflecting on his club’s worst setback since the opener and first losing streak since March, Olsen said: “It’s a good wake-up call in how we react. If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would have two times where we lost two in a row, I’d say, ‘Sure, okay.’ You go through tough stretches, and we’re going through a mini tough stretch. It’s important not to be too dramatic about it but also use it to fuel yourself for the weekend and understand we have to get back to looking after each other a little bit more and doing all of the little things that got us success. Refocusing and recommitting and hopefully get out of this little rut.”
United’s congested calendar was caused by an MLS scheduling change. The Aug. 27 game at Los Angeles was originally set for the second weekend of the season (March 15), but in order to improve the Galaxy’s chances of advancing to the 2013-14 Champions League semifinals, the league cleared L.A.’s calendar. While United received an unwanted two-week break, the Galaxy did not have any regular season distractions between quarterfinal legs against Tijuana. (The Mexicans ended up advancing on aggregate, 4-3.)
Without many available scheduling gaps, MLS moved the March match to late August. At the time, United’s Champions League schedule had not been finalized, but MLS had a general idea of when competition would begin.
The change also cluttered the Galaxy’s late-summer schedule: L.A. will now play Aug. 23, 27 and 31, but all are league games and all are at StubHub Center (two home matches and an “away” game against co-tenant Chivas USA).
“That was not a date we wanted,” Olsen said of the Aug. 27 match. “The league has scheduling issues all over the place and they make tough decisions.”
United had no say in the matter.
*DCU announced it will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its last MLS Cup championship as part of the Aug. 31 match against the New York Red Bulls at RFK. Several members of that squad, including Olsen and Red Bulls Coach Mike Petke, will attend. Where are all of the players and coaches now? Earlier this year, I posted this story about the 2004 group.