Pon­tius names top Come­back player

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

Given the in­jury strug­gles at D.C. United, Chris Pon­tius’s first sea­son with the Union was a breath of fresh air, one re­warded Wed­nes­day as the 2016 MLS Come­back Player of the Year award.

On the bal­ance of the 2016 sea­son, Chris Pon­tius emerged as the Philadel­phia Union’s most con­sis­tent and re­li­able at­tack­ing threat.

Given the strug­gles he in­curred with in­juries at D.C. United, Pon­tius’s first sea­son with the Union was a breath of fresh air, one re­warded Wed­nes­day with recog­ni­tion as the 2016 MLS Come­back Player of the Year award.

Pon­tius tied a ca­reer­high with 12 goals (14 in all com­pe­ti­tions) to go with a ca­reer-best six as­sists. He played in 33 games, mak­ing 32 starts and log­ging 2,571 min­utes, all ca­reer­highs. He also started the Union’s Wild Card play­off loss in Toronto, their first post­sea­son ap­pear­ance since 2011. Pon­tius av­er­aged 22.42 per­cent of the votes among five can­di­dates, as cho­sen by play­ers, me­dia mem­bers and MLS front of­fice per­son­nel. He hand­ily won the me­dia vote and club vote to beat out run­nerup Frank Lam­pard of New York City FC (15.21 per­cent). (The 38-year-old Lam­pard has since left the club, it should be noted.)

Or­lando’s Kevin Molino was third, ahead of Jozy Alti­dore of Toronto and Pon­tius’s for­mer D.C. team­mate, Bill Hamid.

Pon­tius was an MLS All­Star, All-Star Game MVP and Best XI pick in 2012, the other time he scored 12 goals. But per­sis­tent ham­string in­juries lim­ited him to just six games in 2014, and he made only 17 starts in his sev­enth and fi­nal sea­son with D.C. in 2015. In his last three sea­sons in D.C., Pon­tius ac­counted for a to­tal of 39 starts, six goals and four as­sists.

The Union ac­quired Pon­tius last De­cem­ber and made him a cen­ter­piece of their re­built at­tack. He tied rookie of the year Jordan Mor­ris of Seat­tle and San Jose’s Chris Won­dolowski for most goals scored by an Amer­i­can-born player in 2016 and was ahead of both on goals/minute.

Pon­tius joins Kee­gan Rosen­berry, the 2016 MLS Fair Play Award win­ner, and Se­bastien Le Toux (2010 MLS Best XI, 2010 and 2011 MLS Fair Play Awards), as the only Union play­ers ever to earn awards. Rosen­berry last week fin­ished sec­ond to Mor­ris for Rookie of the Year. An­dre Blake is also a can­di­date for Goal­keeper of the Year, to be re­vealed Thurs­day.

AUSTIN HERTZOG — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Chris Pon­tius, cen­ter, fol­lowed up an in­jury­plagued stint with D.C. United to post ca­reer highs in goals, as­sists, games, starts and min­utes in 2016 — his first sea­son with the Union.

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