CHESTER, Pa. — Chris Pontius knew the question was coming and had his response all teed up.
“About six months too late,” he said.
The comment underscored some of the frustration the 30-year-old winger has dealt with this year as he’s been thwarted in front of the net time and again. Those offensive struggles have been especially discouraging coming one season after he erupted for 12 goals to win MLS Comeback Player of the Year and earn US national team attention, including appearances during this summer’s Gold Cup.
“It’s tough at times,” Pontius said. “The highs of winning the Gold Cup and then to come back and I’m my harshest critic. I know I could have played better for this team. There have been games this year where I’ve played well and it just hasn’t come off. It certainly is nice to get on the scoresheet.”
The two goals come at an interesting time for Pontius — likely too late to help the Union make a playoff run, but perhaps in time to increase his value heading into the offseason.
Pontius confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that he’ll meet the MLS requirements to become a free agent after the season, but that he doesn't wish to think about it at the moment or address it with reporters until the season ends.
As to whether the Union will be bidding for his services, this much is clear: head coach Jim Curtin loves the professionalism that Pontius has brought to the club after six up-and-down years at D.C. United.
And on Saturday, he praised “the dirty work” Pontius did on the right side of the field to not only spur the attack but also help slow down Chicago’s David Accam.
“I’m happy for Chris,” Curtin said. “It’s never through lack of effort.”
His teammates were also heartened to see Pontius snap a goal drought that spanned over 2,000 minutes.
“He’s one of the guys I’m closer with on the team and he never seemed down at all,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “Obviously there are stretches where the whole team is maybe not feeling as confident, and when you’re not scoring goals as a winger, an offensive guy, it gets to you maybe. But he’s always been relentless and kind of a leader on the locker room, and it shows on and off the field.”
With just four games left in the season, starting with a trip to red-hot Atlanta United on Wednesday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE), that approach will continue, even though the ninth-place Union can’t do much more than play the role of spoiler.
“If you’re not putting effort in, you can be out of a job next year,” Pontius said. “I don’t think there’s any more motivation that you need right there.”