Photo: Paul Rudderow
For any athlete, there is one easy way to the heart of any Philadelphia fan: stick it to New York.
Chris Pontius has certainly taken that message to heart this season.
In his first tussle in blue and gold with a five-boroughs foe, Pontius opened the scoring against NYCFC by deftly finishing a great run by Tranquillo Barnetta, en route to a comfortable 2-0 win for the Union.
Against New Jersey — we’ll count them as a “New York” team, the same way we give the Football Giants that designation, no matter how silly it is — it’s been more of the same. In the second half of their US Open Cup match, Pontius provided both the equalizer and the dagger, a pair of perfect runs from the wing to find Ilsinho’s precise passes capped with two effortless deposits in the back of the net, flushing the Energy Drinks out of the tournament for good.
This weekend, we saw more of the same from Pontius. He provided a dangerous outlet, collecting a long ball from Brian Carroll in the first half that led to a goal just barely disallowed for offsides.
Pontius kept pushing, though, and got his reward in the second half. First, he let Sal Zizzo do the pushing, as the clumsy defender bowled over Pontius just yards from goal, earning a penalty kick blasted home by C.J. Sapong.
Barely a minute later, Pontius would tie the score with a goal to his own name, a smooth finish into an empty net after an exquisite back-post run was met with Fabian Herbers’ cross.
(In case you were keeping track — each of these four goals against NYRB came in front of the River End. Talk about someone who loves a crowd.)
Many question marks circled around Pontius coming into the season. Struggling with injuries in his last few years with D.C. United, there were legitimate concerns from the Union faithful that the veteran winger might not justify his steep cap hit.
But Pontius has been everything Jim Curtin hoped he would be — a tenacious, crafty winger, capable of executing the Union’s defensive press while springing free with dangerous runs into space. Pontius always seems to be in the right place at the right time, whether it be to score a goal, crack open a defense, or draw a foul in the box.
The Union wouldn’t be where they are without him. And the Red Bulls would still be alive in the Open Cup — and two points higher in the standings — if he were on the sidelines.
That is more than enough to earn Chris Pontius his second PSP Player of the Week award.
PSP Player of the Week Awards, 2016 Season
Chris Pontius (3/15, 7/19)
Chevaughn Walsh (7/6)
Roland Alberg (6/21, 6/28)
Brian Carroll (4/26, 6/1)
Richie Marquez (5/24)
Keegan Rosenberry (5/17)
Sebastien Le Toux (4/19)
Tranquillo Barnetta (4/11)
C.J. Sapong (3/22)
Andre Blake (3/8)