Drafted goalie Joe Willis is hoping to earn a roster spot on D.C. United.
Ben Keller/D.C. United

D.C. United trio of draftees fighting for roster spots

Phase Two of D.C. United’s training camp is underway in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., this week, and as the team goes through the motions in preparation for 2011, three draft picks are hoping to prove worthy of a roster spot.

Defender Chris Korb (Akron), goalkeeper Joe Willis (Denver) and forward Blake Brettschneider (South Carolina) were all acquired via the draft process in mid-January. All three reported for training camp and are enjoying their first two weeks in a professional environment.

“It’s been really exciting meeting all the guys, and making the step from college to the next level here is a lot of fun,” Willis told MLSsoccer.com.

Each player faces a different challenge in terms of making a squad. Willis is essentially battling with camp invitee Chase Harrison for the third 'keeper spot. Korb, who can play both on the left and right sides of defense, will aim to impress with versatility. The 6-foot, 170-pound Brettschneider offers a big body for the front line.

After reporting, the trio worked out with the rest of the team indoors in Washington before taking off to Florida on Jan. 31. Willis, a native of Colorado, has enjoyed the switch to sunnier weather and training outside.

“Now that we’re in Florida we’re able to be outside and train on a bigger field,” he said. “It’s been a lot better out here.”

[inline_node:327643]Each draftee brings a unique playing background with him to DC. Of the three, Korb’s national championship with Akron last year certainly stands out.

And for all the press that Akron gets for running a professional team at the collegiate level, the first few training sessions showed Korb how tight of a ship Caleb Porter runs with the Zips.

“Pretty much everything we’ve done [in DC], we’ve done for the past couple years at Akron,” he said. “It’s great that nothing’s really, really new. It really is a professional environment at Akron.”

Another advantage for Korb is having a familiar face in camp with him. Former Akron teammate and United’s first overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft, Perry Kitchen, is alongside him in United’s camp. The two are rooming together on the road as well.

“We’ve made a lot of new friends, but knowing someone going in makes it a lot easier,” Korb said.

Still, nothing can make the adjustment from college to professionals easy, and all three have been working hard to impress from the start. It’s still early days of camp, but Brettschneider noticed some subtle differences between the collegiate and professional levels right away.

“The intensity and the speed is probably the biggest difference,” he said.

Brettschneider played a variety of positions at South Carolina, but hopes to give United’s staff another option in his preferred spot up top.

For these three rookies, plenty of work lies ahead. The long preseason is still young and all three will want to stay healthy in order to impress head coach Ben Olsen and the rest of United’s technical staff to have a chance to suit up for United when the season starts on March 19.

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