Pontius suffers preseason setback

(D.C. United)
(D.C. United)

When D.C. United preseason opened three weeks ago, D.C. United’s Chris Pontius reported making steady progress in his recovery from hamstring surgery in November. Last week, though, he returned to Washington from training camp in Florida to see a team doctor about discomfort concerning scar tissue in the left leg.

Consequently, Pontius’s timetable to play in preseason matches has been pushed back, Coach Ben Olsen told the Insider on Thursday night.

“Ideally, when we hit Charleston, he will move around a bit,” Olsen said about the prospects of Pontius playing in the Carolina Challenge Cup, Feb. 22-March 1 in South Carolina. “We just need to get him on the field and go from there. We’ll get him back eventually.”

As expected, Pontius did not play in any of the three friendlies in Bradenton. Without minutes in Charleston, though, he would be hard-pressed to be ready for the season opener March 8 against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.

In other DCU news …

*Third-round draft pick Zach Barnes, a midfielder from Creighton, and fourth-round choice Travis Golden, a defender from Campbell, were released.

With Cal defender Steve Birnbaum, Maryland attacker Christiano Francois and Wake Forest defender Jalen Robinson under contract, UCLA midfielder Victor Muñoz is the last rookie seeking a roster spot. Olsen said he will probably continue evaluating him through the Charleston tournament. One additional trialist might join the group in Washington.

*Spanish defender Cristian Fernandez is dealing with what Olsen says is a broken hand, suffered on a fall minutes into his debut training session last Friday. He continues to practice and play in the friendlies but might require surgery at some point.

*Defenders Nana Attakora and Chris Korb remain out with bone bruises.

*The club was scheduled to return from Florida on Wednesday, but a weather-related flight cancellation kept it grounded until at least Friday afternoon. Olsen gave the players Thursday off and will put them through a workout Friday before heading to the airport for what they hope is a flight home.

With snow blanketing outdoor fields in the Washington area, United was in no hurry to leave the warm climate. “I’ve never been so happy to have a flight canceled,” Olsen said.

The club hopes to practice at Arlington’s Long Bridge Park (artificial turf) Monday through Wednesday before departing for Charleston. If conditions remain unfavorable, United will use a suburban indoor facility (as it did in the days before departing for Florida).

Not everyone had to extend their stay in Bradenton: Defender Jeff Parke was able to fly to Philadelphia and rejoin his wife and newborn, and defender Bobby Boswell traveled to Houston to gather personal belongings.

*Despite going scoreless in three Bradenton matches, Olsen believes the new-look club is, slowly but surely, heading in the right direction.

“The defensive work has been very good. Offensively, it’s going to take time. We are about where I thought we would be. We’ve improving every day, and every game we grow. It’s not going to happen overnight. I know we have a lot of good pieces, but it takes time to build relationships and partnerships. We’ll come together. We’re going to be very competitive.”

United will face the Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo and third-division Charleston Battery at the Carolina Challenge Cup.

 

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · February 13