WASHINGTON — The loss of midfielder Chris Pontius turned out to be a hammer blow for D.C. United.
Without their rising star on the left flank – lost for the season with a fractured tibia suffered against Chivas USA on Sept. 10 – D.C. mustered a 1-6-2 record down the stretch and saw their shot at the club’s first postseason since 2007 slip away.
The 24-year-old, now walking without crutches or a cast, nears a return to the field and offseason preparations.
“I want to get back as soon as I can so I can get fit again,” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com. “I think I’m looking at a timeline for being ready for everything around late December and being back 100 percent.”
When Pontius went down with his injury, he was in the middle of a career year. Seven goals and five assists, combined with his ability to run at defenders on the ball, gave an added dimension to D.C.’s attack from the left flank.
“It was tough,” Pontius said. “My main thing is I wanted to play and I wanted to help this team get to playoffs, and it’s tough to see guys you’ve worked so hard with the whole year struggle with some games.”
After a stellar rookie season in 2009 that saw him score four goals, assist on three more and start 23 of his 28 appearances for United, Pontius cooled off in his sophomore campaign. Goal production and appearances decreased as the midfielder battled with a hamstring injury.
But 2011 saw Pontius come back in a big way, and he’s hoping to continue the trend into 2012.
“Over the year, I thought I did pretty well,” he said. “And so there’s still too many games where I’m going up and down and for me, the big thing is I want to find that consistency as a player where game in and game out, Benny knows what he’s getting out of me.”
Pontius’ rebound mirrored United’s return to form after a dismal 2010 season, the club’s worst in its history. But if you ask Pontius, it’s only getting better from here.
“All the young guys we have, it’s a year of experience under their belt and that experience is so valuable in any league,” the midfielder said. “It’s another year of experience for me, for Benny, for everyone. I think we’re definitely trending upwards, play a pretty exciting style of soccer and you’ll continue to see more of that next year.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.