WASHINGTON – When things start to go wrong the way that they have been for D.C. United through seven matches this season, the pressure builds rapidly.
It builds for coaches, for underperforming players, and for every other component of a club that’s off to a 1-5-1 start.
United forward Chris Pontius, who’s scoreless thus far, isn’t shying away from that pressure one bit.
“When you do go into a bad rut like this, your confidence is low,” Pontius said. “Players have been underperforming, including myself. Very much so. I’m my own biggest critic and I know I haven’t played up to my potential, so I’m trying to figure that out.”
Pontius scored 12 goals last season and assisted four more but through seven matches this year, the veteran striker has only one assist and four shots on target in 630 minutes.
“I feel like there’s heat on me, I feel like there’s heat on a number of other players to perform,” Pontius said. “I don’t agree with everything being blamed on [coach Ben Olsen]. It is very much so on my shoulders, on other players’ shoulders, too. It’s going to take everyone to right this.”
As one of the offensive stars on a team that’s scored just four times this season (Lionard Pajoy twice, Perry Kitchen and Rafael), Pontius’ self-analysis is candid. But even with his early struggles, his teammates know what he’s able to contribute when feeling his best.
“I guess that’s in his own mind, but I think he just has to continue doing what he’s good at and that’s running at guys and being dangerous,” Kitchen said of Pontius. “That’s a huge piece for us. We know he can do it and he’s done it before. He’s doing all the right things, it’s just a matter of working hard in training and all of us going out there and being our best.”
Perhaps more than anything, United were disappointed by the terrible start to Sunday’s 3-2 loss at home against the Philadelphia Union, when the club conceded two goals in the opening 11 minutes. The week prior, they emphasized starting strong. They’ll have another chance to attempt just that, this time on the road, Saturday against the Columbus Crew (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“No one wants to lose right now, so the locker room is obviously not the most joyous place,” Pontius said. “When you put a bunch of guys who are used to winning, have grown up winning their whole life, it’s like throwing a wrench in.
"To be honest, it affects everything, even outside soccer. It’s not fun. I’m sure none of our families want to be around us right now, none of our friends. It’s not something we enjoy doing. We’ve got to right this ship. We’ve got to fix this.”