D.C. United has traded Chris Pontius to the Philadelphia Union to kick off what is already looking to be an eventful off-season in Major League Soccer. Pontius was the seventh pick in the 2009 MLS Draft out of U.C. Santa Barbara. He quickly became a fan-favorite and one of the roster’s most promising attacking talents.
— Brendan Cartwright (@Brendanukkah) December 1, 2015
It has been reported by Steve Goff in the Washington Post that “United did offer Pontius a new deal for between $250,000 and $300,000. Philadelphia, however, was willing to take him at the $420,000 rate. So United exercised the option and consummated the trade. The Colorado Rapids were also believed to be interested in him.” Goff also noted that D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper would be scouting in Argentina and Europe in the coming weeks. United will receive financial considerations, including Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) in exchange for the winger-slash-forward.
After seven seasons in Washington, it will be difficult for fans of D.C. United to see Chris Pontius in another MLS club’s colors. However, there are multiple reasons why this trade not only makes sense, but actually sets United up to come out ahead in the MLS off-season as they look to build on their second-consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs and the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League:
- Enough has been said on this topic already, but it made no sense whatsoever to continue paying Chris Pontius at his contract rate considering how many games he’s missed between the 2013 and 2015 seasons. Had Pontius continued to be both healthy and as productive as he was in 2012, we would likely be having an entirely different conversation.
- Perry Kitchen. D.C. United needs cap space to make an attempt at re-signing their most promising young midfielder. He’s attracted plenty of interest both in national team circles and from European clubs looking to see what he can make of himself abroad. While it may be a positive step in his development should he want to continue building his national team résumé for Jürgen Klinsmann, D.C. United are likely making any move they can to sweeten the deal in an attempt to keep him in Washington. Kitchen has proven both at D.C. United and with the U.S. Men’s National Team that he is one of the better American central defensive midfield options and, when D.C. United has been at their best, he is a huge part of their success.
- Lamar Neagle. It has been rumored for the past couple of days that D.C. United has shown interest in acquiring the winger-slash-forward from the Seattle Sounders. According to Pablo Maurer, this is nearly a done deal. As we’ve beaten to death here and elsewhere, Chris Pontius was plagued by injury. Lamar Neagle offers D.C. a very similar kind of player without being nearly as much of a financial liability to the club. He is also coming of a personal best season, recording nine goals and assists for the Sounders in 2015. If you want numbers, there’s no way I can put it nearly as well as Danny Page did here or Harrison Crow of American Soccer Analysis did here.
Despite failing to make the playoffs in his first three seasons, Chris Pontius managed to be a productive member of a team that sought to build itself back into the upper echelons of MLS. He had a breakout year in 2012, earning an MLS Best XI mention after scoring 12 regular season goals and leading D.C. United to their first playoff appearance in five seasons. They managed an unlikely run to the Eastern Conference final, where they were knocked out by the Houston Dynamo.
After signing a lucrative (by MLS standards) multi-year contract extension in 2012, Pontius spent the majority of the 2013 season recovering from a hamstring injury which has hampered him ever since. Despite contributing goals when healthy and being a strong attacking option in a lineup desperately in need of fire power, he has simply not been able to contribute regularly enough to justify his $365,000 base salary.