D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius is expected to undergo additional hamstring surgery soon, delaying his season debut several more months.
Pontius, an MLS Best XI selection in 2012, consulted with three specialists around the country in recent weeks and, according to General Manager Dave Kasper, “they all feel he will require more surgery.” The club is in the process of scheduling the procedure.
“They are all optimistic about a full recovery,” Kasper said. If all goes well, United hopes he is able to return late in the summer.
Pontius, who turns 27 next month, underwent surgery on the left hamstring in early November, with a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks. He did join the club in Florida for the start of training camp but returned home early because of nerve discomfort and was not able to play in the Carolina Challenge Cup, the final competition before the regular season began March 8. Since the initial surgery, he has required minor procedures to remove scar tissue.
Injuries have hindered him several times during six-plus seasons in MLS, the longest current tenure on United’s roster. In September 2010, he underwent season-ending surgery on his right hamstring. Almost exactly one year later, he fractured his right tibia in a collision and missed the rest of the campaign. In 2012, he enjoyed a career-best season with 12 goals, four assists and the MLS All-Star Game MVP trophy. Last year he appeared in just 22 of 34 regular season matches (19 starts) and never seemed at full strength in posting two goals and three assists.
Asked about Pontius’s state of mind after another setback, Kasper said: “Now that there is a clear direction, he’s in a better place. Obviously he has the experience of recovering from injuries so he is optimistic.”
In his absence, United (2-2-1) has utilized Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Lewis Neal and Chris Rolfe on the flanks and relied on secondary forward Fabian Espindola to influence the attack. Rolfe was acquired from Chicago two weeks ago, in part because of Pontius’s uncertain return.
United is unbeaten in three straight matches, and with last Saturday’s victory over New York, has won two in a row for the first time since October 2012. D.C. will visit the Columbus Crew (3-1-1) this Saturday night.
In other injury news …
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who has missed two matches with a toe injury, might not practice this week and, at this point, seems unlikely to return for the Columbus match. In his absence, Andrew Dykstra has recorded shutouts against New England and New York.
United is optimistic outside back Chris Korb, unavailable since preseason with a knee injury, and central midfielder Luis Silva, who injured his left ankle 2 1/2 weeks ago, will be available April 26 against FC Dallas.
In non-injury news …
*With a victory Saturday, United would equal last season’s win total. Last year the club needed 22 games to achieve that — and then didn’t win again. Success in Columbus, though, does not come often: four consecutive defeats. A victory, combined with other results around the league, could also thrust United into a first-place tie in the Eastern Conference.
*United has added former star Luciano Emilio’s academy as its seventh local youth affiliate. The Brazilian launched the project last year in Silver Spring. Players will have the opportunity to join United’s system. “Our club is young and a step this big and this early on gives everyone that is involved a sense of belonging and involvement with a nationally and internationally recognized organization,” he said.
*In the first mid-week match of MLS’s regular season, Philadelphia visits New York tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick, MLS Live). The clubs have combined for a 1-3-8 record. The Red Bulls, Supporters’ Shield winners in 2013, are among five winless teams, joining Chicago, Montreal, Portland and San Jose.