“It’s an award I don’t plan on being up for ever again,” the Philadelphia Union winger told reporters Thursday. “But it is nice. And it’s a credit to all the people around me that helped me this whole year.”
The Union coaches and training staff certainly monitored Pontius closely this season after the club brought him over last December in a trade with D.C. United, where he was slowed by injuries for much of his seven-year tenure.
But Pontius said he didn’t train any differently, noting that a change of scenery and simply getting more time to recover from 2014 hamstring surgery helped more than anything else with his comeback. He stayed healthy all season and finished with a team-leading 12 goals – matching his total from his previous career year in 2012.
“Honestly, I think my body just finally settled down,” he said. “We trained a lot in Philly – I would say more than any other team in the league. My body put up with a lot this year and responded well.”
Finding a home on the Union's left wing, Pontius played in every game of the regular season except for the last one when he was rested with the club’s playoff fate all but sealed. And he started 32 of those 33 contests, registering a career-high in minutes played (2,571).
Conversely, in his final three seasons in D.C. from 2013 to 2015, he was in and out of the lineup and combined for only six goals and four assists in that stretch.
“Late in the season, maybe 27 games in, I was like, ‘Holy cow, I haven’t missed a game yet,’” Pontius said. “And I was just like, ‘All right, let’s keep this thing going.’ And I just kept doing what I was doing. That was my mindset.
“It was a feeling I was really happy about. And I’m planning on doing much of the same in 2017.”
Hoping to build on his success in 2016 – and ensure that there’s no more adversity that he needs to “come back” from – Pontius plans to get back in the weight room next month leading up to the start of preseason. And he believes the Union can take another big step in 2017 after making the MLS Cup Playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.
For now, though, he admits that he’s enjoying a little bit of time away from the soccer field.
“Currently I’m golfing with [former D.C. United teammate] Steve Birnbaum,” he said with a laugh. “That’s my workout for the day. … I’ve got a birdie putt coming up.”