Pontius names top Comeback player
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.
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.