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Pontius on Saturday night found himself engulfed in a throng of media. His memories of the preceding match still were as vivid as the redness lingering on his ears and hands, the product of 90 minutes in the biting cold.

On other occasions, the reporters would want him to recount his latest highlight-reel goal. Or even better, give his take on a D.C. win. But that wasn’t the case. No, this swarm had one main concern: Pontius‘ penalty kick in United’s first-leg draw against New York.

As he stepped up to the spot, he struck the ball with power. The placement, however, was lacking — and Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles pushed it away.

“I just missed it,” he explained. “But I’ve got a short-term memory.”

That’s no surprise. Pontius, after all, is a pro when it comes to bouncing back. His track record recovering from injuries speaks for itself.

“He’s a guy that’s going to shake off his mistakes and get on to the next one,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “That’s what you want to see, especially out of your captain.”

Going into Wednesday’s decisive Game 2, it’s become clear the club is buying into Pontius‘ calming, lead-by-example approach. His brother observed that “he’s taken that leadership role, but he’s not trying to do too much with it — just help the team with whatever he can do.”

Although Pontius has been quietly displeased with his play of late, he’s kept the narrative focused on the club’s winning ways, routinely deflecting praise to his teammates and coaches. The player contingent’s unofficial ambassador to the press, he certainly has learned how to say the right thing.

“Listen, if we’re winning, I’m happy,” Pontius said. “Obviously, I want to be a part of it. Obviously, I want to be on the field for it. Obviously, I want to play well for it. But for me, goals and assists come completely after that. It’s about getting this team on past this round.”

Spoken as a true captain — if not a conventional one.