Pontius takes reins after DeRo blow: "Our turn to step up"
WASHINGTON – Despite the fact that D.C. United will play the remainder of the regular season without captain and 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, the pressure to make the postseason hasn’t evaporated.
United coach Ben Olsen made that much clear on Thursday after training.
“It’s not the greatest news you get, but you move on,” Olsen said. “One thing I’ve learned in this job is that every day poses new challenges and problems and although you don’t replace a guy like this, you move on.”
But a bit of good news has joined the bad as one day after the club announced De Rosario would miss 10 to 12 weeks with a grade III MCL strain, United announced that Chris Pontius had agreed to a long-term contract. While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, it’s fantastic timing for the player who Thursday afternoon said, “It’s our turn to kind of step up and lead these guys into, hopefully, the playoffs.”
WATCH: Pontius on inking new deal
Indeed, Pontius, who leads the team with 10 goals in 24 matches this year, will be one of the players heavily relied upon to step up and maintain a leadership role for the club’s final seven games, beginning Saturday against New England (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). With a win at RFK Stadium – where D.C. haven’t lost since March 10 – United would knock the Revolution out of playoff contention while bolstering their own chances.
“[De Rosario’s injury] is a little hump in the road, but for us we can’t sit here and dwell on it. It’s a chance for other people to step up and that’s what we need to do,” said Pontius, a 2012 AT&T All-Star and seventh overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft.
Without De Rosario, it’s unclear whether Pontius will shift back up top or remain an outside midfielder. Likewise, it’s unclear how much additional playing time Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos – three players previously struggling to generate minutes off the bench – will receive.
“I’m going to miss him, but this is my job,” Boskovic said of De Rosario. “I try to give my best and to create something for the team. It is difficult, especially now when we need him more than anything, but we have seven games and chance for playoffs. We must be strong, stay focused and stay mentally good.”
After playing five matches in two weeks, United have had 14 days off to recover and re-energize for the stretch run.
“We’re under it a little bit. We’ve got a pressure situation in the next seven games, as do the teams around us and I think it’s great. I think it’s great for the Eastern Conference and I think it’s great for the league,” Olsen said.