CHESTER, PA– Chris Pontius’ 2017 season has been full of ups and downs.
The Philadelphia Union winger earned a summer call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team and won the Gold Cup with them, but he’s struggled to find the back of the net at the club level.
Finally, on Saturday, Pontius broke through in the scoring column with a pair of strikes in the Union’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire.
“About six months too late,” Pontius deadpanned “But no, it feels good. Nice to get a win. Came back to a nice crowd and a big three points for us.”
“It’s tough at times,” Pontius said. “The highs of winning the Gold Cup and then to come back and I’m my harshest critic. I know I could have played a lot better for this team. There have been games this year where I’ve played well and it just hasn’t come off. It certainly is nice to get on the scoresheet.”
Pontius hasn’t lacked chances throughout the MLS regular season, but luck hasn’t been on his side even as he gets chances in the final third.
“It seems to happen that way. It comes in bunches at times,” Pontius said. “You feel like you can do everything right in a few games. And then other games you’re putting in so much effort and things just aren’t falling for you. There have been a few games this year where I put myself in good spots and I just couldn’t finish it for whatever reason. Certainly confidence is a big key for that and it was nice to get one especially early in a game like this.”
As his teammates and head coach have noted in previous weeks, Pontius brings more to the table than some may think. The winger is one of the hardest workers on the team and he helps on both sides of the field, including on Saturday against David Accam on the right wing.
“He’s tactically very sound, so he helps us a lot in different ways,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “But you see him today getting rewarded for his effort. I’m very pleased for him. Happy to see him score goals like that.”
“Depends which team you’re playing against. Tonight I felt pretty comfortable with Keegan, he’s very very good attacking so it gives me a little more freedom,” Pontius said.
Pontius’ role has been tweaked on a few occasions throughout the season. He’s been shifted over to the right wing and has played on the outside with an inverted triangle in midfield with Warren Creavalle, Haris Medunjanin and Bedoya in the middle. The midfield might not be creating chances as much as it would with a pure No. 10 in the lineup, but the unit has quite a bit of chemistry.
“Warren just does a great job breaking up plays, covering a lot of ground. Going back two games vs. Minnesota, I think he was our best player on the field, covered a lot of ground for us, and certainly when he came in vs. New York, he made a difference,” Pontius said. “He gets to every pass. You think you’re playing a through ball and Warren’s legs just get there and cut it out. He does a great job in that and Haris and Ale cover a lot of ground as well. So we have a midfield that’s maybe not as attacking but certainly put in the work defensively.”
Now the focus for Pontius and the Union is to finish strong, unlike the 2016 season, with a daunting trip to Atlanta United coming up on Wednesday before the Seattle Sounders come to town on Sunday.
And every game left on the schedule will be taken seriously, even if the results don’t produce a last-ditch run at the top six in the Eastern Conference.
“Taking it game by game,” Pontius said. “If you’re not putting effort in, you can be out of a job next year. I don’t think there’s any more motivation than you need right there.”