Chris pontius - training - 2014
Rebecca Payne /

Always a leader, Chris Pontius contributes during recovery

It has been a long, tough road since hamstring surgery in April, but Chris Pontius has managed to focus on the positives. With sights set on joining his teammates on the field soon as he methodically ramps up his training, the D.C. United midfielder has used the team’s success so far this season as motivation.

“It’s been terrible, obviously,” Pontius said. “I want to be out on the field, producing with the guys. But, you have to look at it as you’re going to get on the field and help them and be a part of those wins. That’s what I get excited for. That’s what I look forward to, and that’s what pushes me through my workouts.”

A standout since he joined the Black-and-Red as a first round SuperDraft pick in 2009, Pontius has scored 27 goals and recorded 16 assists in 123 games played. United has been anxious for the return of a player who is a dynamic threat on the wing or up top.

“I feel decent,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made some good strides in the past couple weeks. Still one of those things I have to take day to day and kind of going off how I’m feeling on the day.”

Although he’s been unable to contribute on the field, Pontius finds ways to make his veteran presence felt within the squad.

“I think I’m just a voice in the locker room if anything,” he said. “It’s tough not being on the field, not being in the same routine as the guys, day in and day out and not being in the discussions and the huddles on the field. I am a voice in the locker room. I voice my opinions there, and if I can help the young guys or be there for the older guys when they need to bounce their ideas off of me, then that’s my job.”

While his job remains to lead vocally, rehabilitate and push himself, others have stepped up in his absence on the pitch. It is a temporary source of purpose for Pontius, who helped lead D.C. United to the playoffs in 2012 and is accustomed to being a critical piece of any game plan.

“I think there have been a few players who have stepped up big time for us,” said Pontius. “Fabi [Espíndola] has stepped up big. [Chris] Rolfe has been massive for us, and I think Davy [Arnaud] and Perry [Kitchen] have controlled the middle for us, and not to mention the backline giving us a number of shutouts. I think it’s been a team effort, and that’s what has made us so successful.”

His teammate’s success is inspiration for Pontius to work even harder to sharpen his game and his fitness and seize a place back in the lineup.

“It will be nice to be competing for a spot again,” he said. “It’s obviously not my spot right now, and I’ve got to push the guys ahead of me, and I look forward to that. If anything, it only makes the guys in front of me better, and it will only make me push myself harder, as there’s a spot to be had out there. I think competition makes the best out of a team. I’m looking forward to it.”