D.C. United attacker Chris Pontius had an outstanding season, and now he's reaping the spoils off the field. A season that saw Pontius score 12 goals and take on a leadership role on MLS's third-place team was good enough for him to make the 2012 MLS Best XI.
Following a 2011 season that was sadly cut short due to a broken leg and a 2010 hampered by a hamstring problem that required surgery, the talk surrounding Pontius was that he could make a huge impact if he could just avoid injury for a full season. It was not seen as a coincidence that United's 2011 season fell apart after the UC Santa Barbara product was hurt.
The hopes that a healthy Pontius would torch MLS proved accurate, as he finished the season as MLS's highest-scoring midfielder while constantly terrorizing opposing fullbacks from both flanks and occasionally as a second forward.
It wasn't just the volume of goals from Pontius, who also notched four assists. The timing and importance of those goals was crucial: Six of Party Boy's goals were game-winners, good enough for third-best in MLS for the season and tying a club record set all the way back in 1996 by Steve Rammel. In other words, United picked up 12 points in the standings from those goals; that's the difference between 2nd and 6th in the East.
Pontius further impressed by stepping up as a leader following Dwayne De Rosario's late-season knee injury. While plenty has been made of the change in tactics and formation Ben Olsen instituted, it must be said that it never would have worked without players buying in. As the club's longest-tenured player, CP13 has a big influence in the locker room and was a big factor in getting a formerly attack-minded team changing gears and succeeding with a more conservative approach.
Along with his 12 goals and 4 assists, Pontius finished third on the team in minutes played (2,339), second in shots taken (71), first in shots on goal (29), and second in goals per 90 minutes played (0.46).
Outside of his regular season achievements, Pontius won the 2012 MLS All-Star Game MVP after getting a goal and an assist against Chelsea. There was also the significant role he played in leading the team from the playing field to the upper deck at Red Bull Arena to thank fans for traveling up despite the miserable weather that eventually forced the game to be cancelled.
The full Best XI is as follows:
Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)
Defender: Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City)
Defender: Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes)
Defender: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielder: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielder: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Midfielder: Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielder: Chris Pontius (DC United)
Forward: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Forward: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
Forward: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)