On Tuesday, it was reported first by Goal.com that D.C. United had traded Chris Pontius to the Philadelphia Union for allocation money. Most Union fans rejoiced as this seems to be a great first move by the Union’s new sporting director, Earnie Stewart, who arrived in the U.S. last week. Pontius is a big name: he’s a former MLS Best XI, and a midfielder who the Union know well, having had to play United three times each year.
But is Pontius worth it?
Pontius, 29, is entering his eighth season in the league. He is a proven offensive threat having scored 12 goals in 2012, securing a spot in the MLS Best XI. Pontius’ career has been derailed a bit over the last couple of seasons because of injuries, but he is still in his prime and can make an immediate impact on the team.
Pontius is walking into a well-established Union offense, though, and may find it hard to break in. In the second half of 2015, the Union used a front four of Tranquillo Barnetta at left wing, Chaco Maidana at center attacking midfield, Sebastian Le Toux at right wing, and CJ Sapong, the lone striker up top. Coming off the bench, the Union had Andrew Wenger, Zach Pfeffer, Eric Ayuk, and Fernando Aristeguieta. Pontius was used typically as a left midfielder in D.C. but has the experience to play any offensive position, having played all of them both at D.C. and in college at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This versatility is probably what drew the Union to Pontius as Jim Curtin loves his players to have the versatility to play multiple positions, giving the team even more depth.
Given the fact that Barnetta just arrived from Europe last summer to fill the left wing role, the obvious spot to put Pontius is at right wing, over Sebastian Le Toux who will be 32 at the start of next season. Le Toux still has a significant impact on the first team but is starting to slow down as age catches up to him. But I imagine the Union will adjust their formation next year to accommodate their arsenal of attaching options. With six players making over $200,000 next year, Curtin will need to find a way to utilize each player to their fullest potential. Pontius for his part, made a base salary of $350,000 in 2015. Having signed a new contract in 2012, we can assume Pontius is nearing the end of his current contract as the average player contract length in Major League Soccer is 2-3 years. The best hope for the Union is probably to negotiate a new contract with Pontius and to keep a talented player on the team without breaking the bank.
The price tag may be a little high, but for the price of the ever elusive “allocation money,” the Union get a proven MLS attacker in Pontius, who is still in his prime and can make an instant impact on the team.