Chris Korb tries to stick in D.C. United starting lineup

To avoid an embarrassing home defeat to Montreal on Saturday, D.C. United needed a pair of saves in the second half.

Bill Hamid, the goalkeeper, made the first one, a brilliant reflex reach to thwart Sanna Nyassi’s low bid. The second stop came not from Hamid but a defender, Chris Korb.

The rebound off Hamid’s save fell into the path of Montreal’s Jack McInerney, who had put the Impact ahead seven minutes earlier. With Hamid scrambling, Korb lunged at McInerney’s one-timer inside the six-yard box and deflected it back to his keeper.

Asked whether Hamid had thanked him, Korb joked: “Yeah. But he didn’t buy me anything yet.”

Had McInerney scored, the Impact would have been in prime position to kill off the final 27 minutes. Instead, with the outcome in the balance, United responded with Eddie Johnson’s 84th-minute header for a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium.

Korb’s contribution came in his third start of the season since recovering from a preseason knee injury. He is expected to retain his place Wednesday night when United (4-3-3) hosts the Houston Dynamo (5-5-2).

A starter for much of 2012 and almost all of last year, the former Akron Zip had slipped on the depth chart heading into the 2014 campaign.

United had claimed veteran Sean Franklin in MLS’s re-entry draft to start on the right side and signed Spaniard Cristian Fernandez to fill the left corner. Those arrivals, combined with Korb’s injury, left him watching the first six matches.

“We won three games last year,” Korb said. “So they needed to do something, and they brought in competition. We have one of the deeper teams around right now. It’s not like I have been given a spot any of my four years here, so I have always had to earn it. I feel like that brings out the best in me.”

When Franklin injured his foot three weeks ago, Korb stepped in.

“He has been doing well to jump back into the lineup after a long period where he was on the sidelines,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s a competitive group, and there are a lot of options. You see it in Sean now; Sean wants to get back out there. That is all healthy stuff.”

Korb, 26, was not healthy for months after injuring his left knee in offseason training. MRI tests showed a bone bruise. He recovered to the point where he hoped to play late in preseason. The discomfort did not fully subside, though, and he had cartilage repaired during arthroscopic surgery the week of the opener.

“It was frustrating watching preseason and not playing, but at the same time, it gave me a little more of a hunger to get back,” he said.

Korb made his season debut in late April as a substitute, and when Franklin went down, he started the subsequent three matches.

Franklin has practiced the past two days and hopes to be fit by the weekend, when United will face the New England Revolution (five goals in each of the past two matches) at Gillette Stadium.

Korb’s form, though, could maintain the status quo. Or Olsen may choose to recall Franklin, play Korb on the left and rest Fernandez, who has played all but eight minutes through 10 games.

“I’m trying to put together a good streak of games so when Sean does come back, they can’t take me out or they can put me on the left,” Korb said. “I just want to play.”

United notes: MLS’s disciplinary committee suspended forward Eddie Johnson for Wednesday’s match for a “reckless challenge” against Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins on Saturday. He was also fined an undisclosed amount for the incident with Perkins and, in an ensuing scuffle, making contact with a defender’s face.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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