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D.C. United 2016 Countdown: 22 days - What's in Chris Korb's future?

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We try to figure out what the minimally shin-guarded defender will have in front of him when he returns.

The last time D.C. United defender Chris Korb saw action on an MLS field, he and New York City FC's Angelino were battling for a ball when Korb torn his ACL, ending his season. Korb is slowly returning and recovering from injury (he has been out at a couple of team events in the offseason), but at last check it remains to be seen whether the injury he suffered in August will either make him miss the start of the 2016 season or not.

Regardless of when he returns, the question here is what becomes of Korb when he's healthy. When he was out, Luke Mishu filled in on spot duty, and when Sean Franklin missed the second leg of the playoffs due to injury, center back Steve Birnbaum took that spot. There seem to be a couple of factors at play, first of which is the level of trust. There is a reason why Birnbaum took the position in D.C.'s last game of 2015, and not just because of the stakes. Another factor which is to be determined is Jalen Robinson, who could not receive so much as a glance when it came to regular season minutes, partly due to his own performance. Coming in with some sort of spark this year could very well serve as justification to let Korb go, a surprising thing to realize as Korb's current position (a veteran fullback who can play both sides) is one that has some value in Ben Olsen's roster composition.

However, there should be some concern about Korb's health that not many realize. Along with 2015's season-ending ACL injury, he missed more than a month in 2014 due to a hamstring issue, and this excludes arthroscopic surgery he had just before the 2014 year than did not see him in the lineup until the end of April. Put another way, after starting in 30 games in 2013, he's started 32 games in 2014 and 2015 combined (appearing in 37 total). Part of it can be attributed due to pieces surpassing him on the depth chart, whether it was the acquiring of Sean Franklin or the slowly emerging play of Taylor Kemp. And if Franklin hadn't picked up a midseason ankle injury, that total would be lower.

Korb is certainly a popular player, whether it is his quickness, his shin guards, or what have you, to the point when we conducted his recent season review, he was overwhelmingly given cake (translation: You guys want to keep him). But if a guy who turns 29 in October and is likely to have a salary cap hit north of $100,000 in a backup role can't provide his trademark speed when it's called upon, he better improve on his spatial awareness, lest some hard decisions may have to be made for the future of the club.