- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
Chris Pontius’ intensity for D.C. United belies his California cool
Club on Wednesday plays in do-or-die playoff game
Talk about culture shock.
“I was definitely frustrated,” Pontius said. “I was never used to losing. I was never on losing teams. So for me to come in and lose games, it eats you. It eats you alive.”
A long time coming
The squad’s shortcomings were not tolerated. As coaches came and went, wholesale personnel changes were made. By the time this season started, Pontius had achieved the unlikely status of being the organization’s longest-tenured player.
One can understand why United invested in him. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, with speed, Pontius has the physical tools. He is proficient on the flank or up top. He can run at defenders or turn toward goal to fire with either foot.
In Payne’s words, “He’s the full package of a modern player.” And his trajectory remains tilted firmly upward.
“He definitely has a lot more confidence,” said center back Dejan Jakovic, another four-year United veteran. “Now, he’s just evolved — his finishing or whether he’s setting you up. He’s grown as a player, and he’s showing it.”
In July, Pontius was voted the All-Star Game MVP. Last week, he was named United’s top player of 2012. Next, a spot on the shortlist for Comeback Player of the Year seems imminent, as does a call-up to the U.S. national team.
Understanding the fragility of an athletic career, Pontius often reminds himself not to take it for granted. Watching from the sideline can instill such a philosophy, and he did plenty of that while missing much of 2010 with a hamstring ailment and the stretch run of 2011 with a broken leg.
“He’s been focused, and he’s been healthy,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We always knew that once he put a full healthy year in, that he was going to be someone that really excels with our group and within the league. So it’s no real surprise to us.”
The play of Pontius, who signed a new contract in September, was critical for a D.C. side that finished second in the East with a 17-10-7 mark. When the final whistle blew Oct. 20 at RFK Stadium, capping United’s playoff-clinching win over the Columbus Crew, Pontius found Olsen amid the merriment and shared a long embrace with the onetime D.C. player he has called a teammate and coach.
As Pontius said, the roster turnaround is “tough at times because emotionally you get invested with your teammates — and then they’re gone.”
Surrounded by newcomers brought in to turn the franchise’s fate, Pontius and Olsen were among the few who endured long enough to see through United’s long road back to prominence.
“The losing is never easy,” said Pontius‘ brother, Tim, who played with him at UCSB. “It means a whole lot more to know that he’s worked hard for four years and finally it’s paying off.”
Locker room leader
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Luis Silva realizes potential in D.C. United playmaking role
- United, D.C. hope this new stadium plan will be the last
- Jared Jeffrey returns to U.S. in search of playing time after European tour
- Sonny Silooy's career has evolved from standout defender to standout talent developer
- Alain Rochat adjusts to D.C. United move with growing family on his mind
Latest Blog Entries
- Jason Levien, Ben Olsen discuss D.C. United's $300M stadium plan
- Conor Doyle loan continues D.C. United youth movement
- Ben Olsen discusses trading Brandon McDonald to Real Salt Lake
- Interview outtakes: Sonny Silooy
- Hello Luis Silva, Collin Martin, goodbye Alain Rochat: Breaking down D.C. United's busy day
By John R. Bolton
Reality calls for attaching Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan
- Joe Biden's first Instagram pic mocked as shill for sunglass ad
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- Removal of military gear limits options for U.S., NATO in Ukraine
- Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch wrecked by retreating feds
- CURL: The state of the Union worse than you thought
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.