Pontius targets opening day as return from broken leg

Chris Pontius skips away from Roger Espinoza

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With each passing day of preseason, D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius comes closer and closer to a full recovery from last year’s broken leg.

Pontius’ season came to a premature end in September 2011 when he suffered a fractured tibia in a collision with Chivas USA defender David Júnior Lopes, but the fourth-year standout is making good strides while training with the team in Sarasota, Fla., during the past week.

“Things are going well,” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress down here in Florida and finally turned a corner. I am running and stuff like that.”

Before the injury, Pontius was enjoying a strong season, racking up seven goals and five assists.

If D.C. United hope to snap their four-season playoff drought in 2012, Pontius’ recovery will be a big piece of that. And while his injury has kept him out for more time than he had hoped, the midfielder is working hard to make up for lost time.

“It’s been longer than what I’ve expected, but talking to doctors about the injury, I had a six-month injury,” he said. “In that sense, it hasn’t been longer, but I wanted to be healthy during preseason so I could get my fitness level up. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It’s just the way my body recovered from this.”

Still, despite the injury, Pontius has been actively involved in D.C.’s preseason so far, working with trainers on the side and traveling with the team. He’s hoping to increase his level of participation over the next few weeks, becoming more and more involved.

Slowly, he is building up his fitness, while also getting to know new teammates like SuperDraft pick Nick DeLeon and offseason signings Maicon Santos and Danny Cruz.

“These camps are tough,” he said. “It’s a lot of double days, but it’s good to be around the guys. [There are] a lot of new faces, but there’s still a core of players who I’m close with so it’s good to be around them.”

Right now the focus for Pontius is simple: Heal as fast as he can and be fit and ready for D.C.’s opener on March 10 against Sporting KC.

“I’m planning on being able to play,” he said.