WASHINGTON – Chris Pontius was one of D.C. United’s brightest stars entering the 2010 season. But his second year in MLS was marred by a recurrence of chronic right hamstring troubles, which initially flared up during the US National Team’s January training camp but took a dramatic turn for the worse in United’s 2-0 loss to Chicago on April 17, when part of his hamstring tore away from the pelvis bone.
Subsequent rehabilitation efforts did not fully cure the problem, so Pontius has elected to go under the knife in Los Angeles on Friday morning with an eye towards being ready for next season. MLSsoccer.com caught up with United’s dynamic attacker shortly before he returned to his native Orange County, Calif., for an extended recovery stint at his parents’ house.
MLSsoccer.com: How are you feeling?
Pontius: I’m just mentally preparing myself for this idea. I mean, there’s not much else I can do right now.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you feel relieved to be taking this step?
Pontius: Yeah. It’s kind of like the last resort. We’ve tried pretty much everything else. So yeah, definitely relief, because from all the things I hear about the surgery and from talking to the doctors, they think I’ll be able to make a full recovery, 100 percent, and I’ll be feeling better than I do now. So, definitely relief.
MLSsoccer.com: This procedure will reattach your hamstring muscle to the bone, right?
Pontius: Yeah, that’s correct.
MLSsoccer.com: When did this damage take place?
Pontius: When we got the MRI done in April or May, whenever I did tear it, it was 50 percent torn off the bone. But there’s a couple ways you can handle it and we went the route of trying to rehab it. It never re-attaches to the bone unless you surgically do it, but we were trying to strengthen the muscles around it – it just hasn’t worked out with my body like they thought it would. So I’m just relieved to finally have the date set. I’m a little nervous about surgery, but other than that, I’m ready for it.
MLSsoccer.com: What is the recovery time?
Pontius: I’m in bed for a decent amount of time, and then starting to do a little bit of movement, I think after three weeks, just range of motion. And then I think we’re looking for me to be back by the first game [of 2011]. I know that’s my goal, to be in the starting lineup and be on the field by first game.
MLSsoccer.com: Would that be on, or ahead, of your planned rehabilitation schedule?
Pontius: It’s right on schedule, pretty much. So that’s my goal and that’s what I’m going to be working hard for.
MLSsoccer.com: There’s a history of second-year MLS pros experiencing a “sophomore slump” – does that apply to you?
Pontius: I don’t know if I would call it a slump, just a year where an injury has hampered me. I guess you could call it a slump, but it’s a year that I haven’t felt 100 percent in any game. So it’s just the nature of sports: You’re going to have to deal with injuries. You have to bounce back from them and become a stronger player from them.
MLSsoccer.com: Your hamstring troubles date back to high school, right?
Pontius: I’ve always just kind of dealt with it, but not to this level.
MLSsoccer.com: Did it feel different this time?
Pontius: You deal with little pulls here and there and it’s sore on a day. But this actually tore — I’ve never done that before. And you can barely walk the next day, it’s pretty painful.
MLSsoccer.com: Are your parents ready to have you back in the house?
Pontius: My mom is going to take off work for a couple of weeks, just to deal with me. I’m going to rely on them a lot for the first couple of weeks. They’re excited to have me back, I guess, but it’s under different circumstances than we would like.
MLSsoccer.com: Any beach rehab activities planned?
Pontius: No! [Laughs] No moving for a while.