Look, Chris Pontius is a good soccer player. I don't think anyone would argue otherwise. When he's healthy and at this best, he's a tremendous asset to his team, bringing sharp attacking play and a nose for goal to the table.
The trouble, of course, is that Pontius is a good soccer player plagued by bad injuries. After undergoing surgery this past offseason for his left hamstring and sciatic nerve, he spent most of this season recovering. And an injured Pontius wasn't exactly new to D.C. United fans—Pontius has suffered injuries since he joined the Black-and-Red in 2009.
But he did, finally, make an appearance for DCU in 2014. Late in the second half against the New York Red Bulls in September, Pontius came on for his first minutes of competitive play all season. D.C. lost the game on a 90th minute Lloyd Sam goal, but Pontius' return marked a clear positive. When you've got a guy like Pontius to introduce back into your lineup, where do you go but up?
Pontius logged minutes in the CONCACAF Champions League, grabbing 20 or so against Waterhouse before starting—and scoring—against Tauro FC to help United to a 2-0 win (1:50ish in the video).
In MLS, Pontius found playing time as a sub in September before stepping into a starting role come October; against Kansas City, Houston, and Chicago, he played at least 60 minutes. It was the stop on his shot in Houston that led to Taylor Kemp's goal there, and then, with DCU needing just a point to secure their playoff berth, Pontius bagged his first league goal in over a year against the Fire at RFK. Drifting free inside the box, he headed home a cross from Eddie Johnson at close range.
Pontius showed flashes of his in-form self when he did take the field this year, speeding down the flanks and taking shots at goal. He stretched his playing time into 70 minutes in both playoff legs against New York, but he failed to make much of an impact in either game.
At 27, Pontius should be in the prime of his career. He should be written into Ben Olsen's lineup in pen every week. And if he gets match fit, stays match fit, and doesn't suffer injuries again, maybe we'll really see him in his prime next year. With DeLeon, Rolfe, Espindola, Silva—even EJ—in the Black-and-Red's attack, adding Pontius back into the mix is exciting. He's capable of helping lead this team to something great (no pressure, Party Boy). When Pontius is healthy and playing well, where does this team go? Up, you guys. It goes way up.
He doesn't come cheap. He earned a $350,00 base/381,000 guaranteed salary last year, the second-highest behind Eddie Johnson. But as DCU's current longest-tenured player, he's a leader for this team whether he's on the field or not. It's hard for me to picture the Black-and-Red without Pontius, and honestly, I'd probably be willing to keep him around until his hamstrings actually fall out of his legs and he's a senior citizen. I'm committed like that.
Anyway, Pontius has a long-term contract with the club and probably isn't moving anywhere, but you still get to vote. Are you in it with CP13 for the long haul, or are you ready to say goodbye?