United seeking offense from its outside backs

Two of D.C. United's safest players are looking to take some chances.

Outside backs Daniel Woolard and Chris Korb fit perfectly in coach Ben Olsen's system. Each won his place on the field through hard work and reliability. Each gives up little on defense and rarely strays out of his comfort zone by going forward.

But both might need to if United (1-3-1) is going to snap out of its offensive funk against the similarly struggling New York Red Bulls (1-3-2).

Up next
Red Bulls at D.C. United
When » Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where » RFK Stadium

"I think a lot of guys are just playing the ball and standing there," United midfielder Chris Pontius said. "We make it so easy to defend us. Their defending is very good, but if we can get them involved in the attack more and make our team more dynamic, we become a very hard team to defend."

The problem is neither Korb nor Woolard resembles the dynamic Andy Najar, who departed in the offseason for Belgian club RSC Anderlecht after transforming his game and the United offense when he moved to right back last season. Korb and Woolard both have to pick their spots more carefully.

"As a whole team we're trying to figure out more of an identity and how we're going to play," the speedy Korb said. "Obviously, we want to get our outside backs involved, and I think that's a big reason why I'm in there playing. They want me to get forward."

Korb, in his third year out of Akron, solidified his place in late spring last year and started 22 games. The offseason selection of Maryland outside back Taylor Kemp in the draft, the addition of veteran James Riley and return of Robbie Russell were reminders that his place wasn't necessarily safe, but he has started every game so far in 2013.

"I'm still a relatively young guy in the league, and I still feel like I have a lot to prove to myself and everyone else," Korb said. "I think that pushes me, too. No comfort level, that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Woolard missed the second half of last season with a concussion but returned with headgear to make the bench for the playoffs and has steadily regained his form.

"It's something that has helped me to be a little more appreciative of being healthy and being able to be on the field," Woolard said. After starting the season opener in Houston, Woolard lost his spot in the next two games but won it back in the most recent two, replacing Riley.

United used a 4-1 drubbing of the Red Bulls at RFK Stadium last April as a springboard for a stretch of seven wins in nine matches. It also expects to dictate the action after scrambling to preserve a scoreless tie in the teams' first meeting of the season at Red Bull Arena on March 16.

"I think when we have more of the ball, especially at home," Woolard said, "we'll be able to ... be more in the attacking half."