Even the most talented MLS rookies have to learn the ropes, pay their dues and win the respect of veteran teammates. This season, however, several newcomers around the league have vaulted the
traditional learning curve, as the likes of Steve Zakuani
, Stefan Frei
, Kevin Alston
and Rodney Wallace
have made notable
contributions and even won starting roles over more experienced counterparts. But few rookies have made themselves as useful - indispensible, even - to their club as D.C. United's Chris
, the jack-of-all-trades attacker who has played an integral part in the Black-and-Red's encouraging start to the 2009 campaign.
In stark contrast to last season,
D.C. boss Tom Soehn
has reveled in the tactical freedom made possible by his versatile squad and Pontius has embodied that flexibility, logging time at striker and in every spot in
the midfield. The UC Santa Barbara product has racked up four goals and two assists in league action, numbers that place him near the top of United's stat charts and make him a strong candidate
for Rookie of the Year honors as well as MLS All-Star selection. But the manner in which he's accumulated those numbers might be more revealing: Pontius has often been a key cog in his team's
in-game adjustments, shifting positions on the fly as conditions and matchups change, a role typically reserved for savvy veterans.
"His versatility continues to make us a better
team," said Soehn earlier this month. "We can move him around in spots where we think he can help us." Pontius says he's used to shifting positions and roles on the field. "I
played a bunch of different roles in college, whether it was right back, D-mid, right half, left half -- I even played center back one game there," he said. "So I'm very comfortable with
moving around, and it's helping me get on the field as a rookie. ... I think we're still searching for what kind of player they want me to be here. ... You know, I'm a rookie, I'm just
looking to get time and stay on the field. So I really don't care what position I'm playing here - as long as I'm on the field I'm happy."
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