If 2009 was a coming out party for Chris Pontius, then 2010 was nothing but an uphill battle.
After being drafted by D.C. United with the seventh overall pick of the 2009 SuperDraft, Pontius played 28 games as a rookie, scoring four goals and adding three assists. His play caught the attention of U.S. men’s national team coach Bob Bradley, and the 23-year-old Yorba Linda, Calif., native earned a call-up to the January camp.
However, it was there that Pontius first picked up a hamstring injury, an issue that ailed him for the rest of the year, eventually shortening his 2010 season to just 17 games.
Pontius, who underwent surgery to deal with the issue in October, is training and recovering out in California, eyeing a healthy return when D.C. United begin preseason next year. So far, the recovery is ahead of schedule.
“It’s going good,” Pontius told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a little bit ahead of schedule. [I'm] working out at the Home Depot Center four days a week and then doing some stuff on the side as well to try and get my fitness back to where it needs to be.”
The nagging hamstring injury was a source of frustration for the second-year winger/forward, whose abilities were limited by the ailment.
“I want to be able to perform at the level that I know I can,” Pontius said. “That was frustrating for me this year, because I was trying and doing everything I could, and my body was not allowing me to.”
With players allowed to report mid-January for preseason, Pontius is hopeful that he can recover in time to be cleared to practice and play once things are under way next year. He’s itching to get back on the field.
“I wouldn’t be able to practice right now, but I think in about three to four weeks, I’ll be cleared to practice full out with the team,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back in the preseason and be able to play soccer again; it’s mentally very, very frustrating for me.”
Being out on the West Coast this offseason allowed Pontius the opportunity to attend the NCAA College Cup, which was hosted by his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara. It also gave him a chance to spend time with new teammate Dax McCarty, who was out watching his brother Dustin compete with North Carolina.
The two teammates previously crossed paths last January at the US national team camp, but the College Cup was a chance to meet up as teammates as McCarty made the move to DC in November.
“We knew each other from January camp.” Pontius said. “We had met and hung out there. I did get to know him a lot better this time. I thought he was a great guy. His play speaks for itself; he’s a good player, and I think he’s going to add a lot to our team.”
Pontius is hopeful that next year will provide different fortunes not only for himself, but also for the team.
“I’m looking for next year to be very different for our team, and for me personally as well.”