D.C. United news and notes: Pontius on slow road in comeback

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

Don’t expect to see D.C. United’s Chris Pontius in a competitive match anytime soon.

A pivotal figure in the club’s turnaround efforts, Pontius continues to struggle in his return from offseason hamstring surgery and has not resumed full-time training.

“He is still a little ways away,” General Manager Dave Kasper told the Insider. “He has good days and bad days. He needs more time.”

Pontius, a Best XI selection in 2012 and the club’s longest-tenured player, underwent surgery in early November and, despite a less intensive training regimen than his teammates, targeted the Carolina Challenge Cup late in preseason for game action. But a setback during the Florida stage of training camp ended those hopes, as well as the possibility of playing in the March 8 season opener against Columbus, a 3-0 loss at RFK Stadium.

The team then looked forward to the second match, this Saturday at Toronto FC. But Pontius is not nearly ready.

His troubles center on the nerves and not the muscle.

“Some days he feels good and is excited and on other days when he tries to push a little harder, he has some pain,” Kasper said. “He just needs to step back.”

In his absence, Nick DeLeon has shifted from the right side of midfield to the left and Davy Arnaud has started on the right.

Given Pontius’s setbacks, United has not set a timetable for his return.

*Monday’s snowfall forced the club to move indoors, where players worked on cardio, fitness and individual sessions. United hopes to train at Long Bridge Park in Arlington (artificial turf) on Tuesday and Wednesday before possibly returning to the grass grounds outside of RFK.

The wintry burst will help prepare United for Toronto’s conditions. The early forecast at BMO Field: High temperature of 34 degrees with 14-mph wind and a 70 percent chance of rain or snow. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. ET. No standard TV coverage in the Washington area.

*With this past weekend off from league play, United looked into scheduling a friendly against a lower-division club. But wanting to give everyone 90 minutes, the technical staff decided to play an intrasquad scrimmage Friday instead.

*Club officials will decide this week which players will go on long-term assignments with United’s third-division affiliates, the Richmond Kickers. Goalkeeper Joe Willis, defenders Conor Shanosky and Jalen Robinson, midfielder Collin Martin, midfielder-forward Christiano Francois and forward Michael Seaton are the primary candidates. United will name at least four but also shuttle others between the clubs throughout the season. The Kickers will hold their final preseason match Saturday at home against the University of Virginia and open the USL Pro campaign March 29 at Charleston.

*Robinson is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the final week of preseason while Shanosky had surgery last week to repair a fractured wrist, suffered in a Kickers friendly.

*The last trialist, second-round draft pick Victor Muñoz, was released without a contract offer last week. United surrendered an international roster slot to Montreal in order to select the UCLA midfielder, who showed decent foot skills and work rate in preseason but did not fit into the club’s plans. Had he stuck around as a developmental player, Muñoz would not have figured into first-team selections.

*The kickoff times are set for the FedEx Field doubleheader June 7: Spain vs. El Salvador at 4 p.m. and United vs. Columbus Crew at approximately 6:30. Also announced: the Honduras-Turkey friendly May 29 at RFK will begin at 8 p.m.

*United and Comcast SportsNet are aiming to finalize the local TV package this week. CSN plans to carry about 16 league matches.

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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