WASHINGTON — It’s one of soccer’s never-ending arguments: as a player facing your former team, do you celebrate if you score against them?
For some, a goal against an old club can feel redemptive, providing a bit of vindication. Others consider it more appropriate to subdue their emotions and curb their celebration out of respect for their former club.
For Chris Pontius, it was never even up for debate. On Saturday evening — when the former D.C. United winger pushed the Philadelphia Union ahead 2-1 with a right-footed strike in the 57th minute — Pontius held back.
“It was never a question,” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com after the Union and D.C. United played to a 2-2 draw. “This organization was good to me, the fans were good to me. I didn’t leave on a bad note at all. It was never a question for me.”
Pontius was a fan favorite over his seven years in D.C. but left during the winter in search of a change of scenery. He’s found an ideal fit just up I-95 in Philly: his strike on Saturday was his ninth in league play and 11th over all competitions.
“It’s challenging when you walk into the opposition’s locker room for the first time, when you’re wearing a different shirt,” Union head coach Jim Curtin told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s a credit to Chris, the performance he put in. He worked really hard and got his goal.
“It’s the sign of a good player – when you get cheered off the field by the opposing fans in a different jersey. I think the fans here are great and they respect Chris a great deal and he scored a big goal for us tonight. Happy for him, he’s been excellent all year for us. Just adds to the strong season he’s having.”
Pontius’ finish pushed the Union ahead but Philly were eventually undone by a Steve Birnbaum goal deep into stoppage time, souring the mood in the visitors' locker room.
“[My goal] would mean a lot more if we won the game,” Pontius said. “It was weird being back here in this locker room and seeing all the old faces. I tried to push it aside ’til after the game, to get out and say hi to the people.
“I wish the result would’ve been different, but with as many numbers as they threw forward late and all the chances it was bound to happen at some point.”