Left side of United formation locked down
D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius has earned a lot ofheadlines this season. Afterleading the club in scoring through the first half of 2012, the 25-year-oldburst onto the national scene last week with an MVP-performance in the MLSAll-Stars' 3-2 win over Chelsea.
On the contrary, left back Daniel Woolard never gets much ink. Outside of being on thewrong end of some Marc Burch cross-country trash talk earlier this season;Woolard has remained a largely anonymous – but important – part of D.C.’ssuccess.
“He’s Mr. Consistent,” Pontius said of Woolard, who usuallyoccupies the spot directly behind him in United’s formation. “He is not a guy who is flashy or goingto do step-overs, but he’s there game in and game out. He puts in the hard work and rarelygets beat. That’s what you needfrom a defender, not somebody that is going to put on a highlight show.”
Aside from a late Woolard goal in an early-May loss at SanJose, highlights have remained Pontius’ domain this year. But, while partnering on the left sideof Ben Olsen’s 4-4-2 formation, the duo are displaying a chemistry that has beenbuilding since Woolard broke into the startinglineup last May.
Pontius recently pointed to United’s left back as a keyfactor in his breakout campaign, but the limelight-dodging defender says hisleft-sided counterpart deserves all the credit.
“He turns guys inside out,” said Woolard, undoubtedly avictim of Pontius’ infamous ‘shoulder dip’ during D.C. training sessions. “He finishes with both feet and that’swhat makes him hard to defend. Whenhe’s coming at you with speed you never really know which way he is going.”
Off the field, the pair would appear to have little incommon. California-native Pontiusis active on twitter while Woolard spends his free time fishing. Recently however, each admitted to a being one of just a few members of the D.C. locker room that listen to country music, and- like Pontius - Woolard’s family is originally from the Golden State.
On the field, their understanding has drawn comparisons toanother sport, one most popular in Texas - Woolard's actual native state.
“They are starting to have a quarterback – wide receiver relationshipwhere they know what each other are thinking before the ball is hit,” notedD.C. assistant coach Chad Ashton. “It’s huge, the trust factor, in terms ofbeing able to release and go forward and feeling comfortable with the guybehind you. It makes the game thatmuch easier for Chris.”
D.C. United takes on the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium this Saturday. Buy tickets