Chris Pontius is having a career year in his first season with Philadelphia Union. Pontius has set career-highs in games played (32), games started (31), assists (6), minutes played (2,503) and shots on goal (34). Pontius has also tied a career-high with 12 goals. The front-runner for comeback player of the year is putting in work in a different city for the first time in his career.
2016 was the first season the eight-year veteran didn’t take the pitch for D.C. United. Pontius was selected as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by United and scored his first MLS goal in his first professional start. Despite the success, his time in D.C had run its course and he requested a trade.
"It was relatively easy in the sense that I was honest with them," Pontius said on a podcast with Goal.com. "Obviously I had injuries there, and I felt like that was looming over my head and I just wanted a fresh start.”
A fresh start is exactly what the doctor ordered for Pontius. On Dec. 7, 2015 he was traded the Philadelphia Union for allocation money. The midfielder has been a Godsend for the club this season. He has provided a spark for his team that desperately needed production from his position.
Philadelphia Union are closing in on their first playoff berth since the 2011 campaign. A trip to the postseason would be just the second time in club history for Philadelphia. The club has relied heavily on the contributions of Pontius to take them to the postseason. Pontius leads the Union with 12 goals and his 12 goals are also tied for third most for goals in a season all-time in Union history.
It’s not just his production this season that has caught the eye of the organization. His leadership is a quality that is hard to duplicate. Along with veteran Brian Carroll, Pontius has proven to be a leader in a locker-room that’s had rookies record more minutes than any other club in MLS. Union head coach Jim Curtin praised Pontius for how he’s conducted himself since arriving in Philadelphia.
“He’s been excellent for us. Our staff has been so impressed with how he carries himself. He’s a winner,” Curtin said. “Chris has had a great season; he’s been excellent for us offensively and defensively. We believe in Chris.”
As calendar turns to October, there are just two matches remaining for the Union on their schedule. The club is currently holding on the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both remaining home matches are at Talen Energy Stadium, Oct. 16 against Orlando City and Oct. 23 against New York Red Bulls. As the Union continue their hunt for the cup they’ll rely heavily on not just the talent of Pontius but his leadership as well.