MLS East Notes: Pontius excels up top, Ream feeling confident and more

  ChrisPontius (ISIPhotos.com)

By THOMAS FLOYD

When D.C. United captain Josh Wolff reaggravated a hamstring injury in the first half of a friendly against Everton on Saturday, coach Ben Olsen looked to a bench that had no natural forwards on it and opted for a throwback, inserting winger Chris Pontius up top.

Aside from a few minutes here and there, Pontius had not played forward in more than a year, since the opening matches of United's 2010 season under then-coach Curt Onalfo. The third-year player, however, excelled in his 54 minutes playing there against Everton, scoring off a Dwayne De Rosario feed in the 47th minute and looking perpetually dangerous during the 3-1 D.C. loss.

"I enjoyed it up there," Pontius said. "I thought I got some good looks, and I was able to get on the end of one."

United has just four natural forwards on its roster — Wolff, Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya and Blake Brettschneider. But with Davies (knee inflammation) and Wolff questionable for Saturday's match at San Jose, and Brettschneider just back from a concussion, Pontius could start at striker this weekend.

"Chris doesn't usually play up top, but I thought he did very well," De Rosario said. "With the runs he was looking for, he moved like a forward."

Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:

CHICAGO FIRE

When defender Pari Pantazopolous took the field to play Manchester United during Chicago's 3-1 loss Saturday, it marked another unlikely step forward for a player who earned a roster spot with the Fire during the preseason via the team's open tryout process.

"It's a huge journey for me," Pantazopolous said to MLSsoccer.com. "To start from the open tryout … it's just unbelievable. To have that feeling, you in front of 60,000 fans, it's awesome to be part of the team, to watch the best guys in the world and play the best players in the world."

COLUMBUS CREW

Newcastle United defeated Columbus 3-0 on Tuesday at Crew Stadium on goals from Shola Amoebi, Fabricio Colocinni and Haris Vukcic.

The Crew played the entire second half shorthanded after goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum received a red card for intentionally handling the ball outside his penalty area. With starter Will Hesmer and third-stringer Alex Riggs not dressed for Columbus, MLS pool goalkeeper Chris Konopka filled in between the posts.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

One of the more unlikely All-Star selections this year was defender Corey Ashe, a former midfielder who filled in at left back for an early-season match at New York to help Houston cope with Dane Richards' speed and never let go of the position.

"You look at Corey now, and consistently he's been one of our best players defensively," Houston and MLS All-Star teammate Geoff Cameron said to the Houston Chronicle. "He gets forward, gives balls in the box, and he creates things. He can get himself out of pressure and keep possession at the same time."

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

Just when it looked like the Revolution was a lost cause for the 2011 MLS campaign, New England picked up a win at D.C. United and a draw at Colorado to climb within six points of the final playoff position. To Revolution All-Star Shalrie Joseph, New England needed those two results "badly."

"It definitely put a smile on my face getting four points on that last road trip," Joseph told MLSsoccer.com. "Hopefully, we can make a run during the second part of the season."

NEW YORK RED BULLS

Playing in his first MLS All-Star Game tonight, defender Tim Ream is confident that coach Hans Backe's squad has what it takes to avenge last year's loss to Manchester United and down the Red Devils at Red Bull Arena.

"We want to put on a good performance to show United and the world the talent that our league has to offer," Ream wrote on his New York Times blog. "They’ve been on a good roll and we want to put a stop to that. Everyone is prepared and we have gelled well and think we have what it’s going to take to beat them."

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Possibly getting the start between the posts for the MLS All-Stars tonight will be goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, a veteran whose organizational savvy has helped Philadelphia's defense become one of the league's best unitsafter it struggled mightily in 2010 with Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton in goal.

"The best aspect is that he has provided veteran leadership in that position, where last year we had young players there," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

When the MLS All-Stars and Manchester United dined at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's house Monday, defender Matt Besler found himself seated next to Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic. Needless to say, Besler found the experience "a little surreal."

"But at the same time, it gets me excited," Besler said to the Kansas City Star. "It hasn't all really sunk in yet, but I'm sure when I have a chance to sit back and think about it, all this will seem unbelievable."

TORONTO FC

At 3-11-9, this MLS season appears to be a lost cause for Toronto FC. But the team remains committed to its long-term plan to embrace a 4-3-3 system nonetheless.

"You need the whole team defending and you need the whole team attacking," assistant coach Bob de Krek told the National Post. "It is as simple as that … but if you’re not used to playing in the 4-3-3 system, then there are moments when you’re waiting [for something] to happen and then you are too late."

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Columbus Crew, MLS- D.C. United, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- New England Revolution, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Philadelphia Union, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Toronto FC. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to MLS East Notes: Pontius excels up top, Ream feeling confident and more

  1. Will says:

    Corey Ashe…..The homeless mans Patrice Evra.

  2. Cooper says:

    where is all-star coverage???

  3. kimo says:

    Pontius really impressed against Everton. Hopefully, he can continue his fine run of form this year and eventually get an invite back to camp.

  4. Duck says:

    I am hoping for Cameron and Pontius in camp for Costa Rica. And Pearce for the throwback.

  5. Dennis says:

    Worries me that Ream is would say he is confident. He may be young, but that indicates he just doesn’t get it. Any reasonable defender should be worried about Man.U.

  6. kimo says:

    Duck,

    Agreed 100%. Asking just for an invite to camp to see where they stand.

  7. Eric says:

    You’re absolutely right. I’d rather have my starting defenders say, “Holy crap, we’re playing Manchester United. We’re going to get s*** on all game long. I don’t even deserve to be on the same field as them.”

    Get over it. Confidence is essential for any player.

  8. Murph says:

    And he’s supposed to say what instead? They’re clearly better than us and we’re fully prepared to have our asses kicked?

  9. Murph says:

    Yeah, what Eric said…

  10. Matt C in Tampa says:

    Dennis:

    There’s a difference between confident and cocky.

    …and what Eric said.

  11. Will says:

    As long as Ream doesnt try any spinning backheels, I am leaning towards confident not cocky.

  12. fischy says:

    I have always thought that Pontius is a natural forward. Not sure why Olsen loves him so much on the left wing. What he’s lacked in his stints up top is good finishing skills. Given his frame, he’s almost a made-to-order striker. On the other hand, he looked great taking corner kicks against Everton — another thing he hasn’t done much. This year, the team has had Najar, McCarty, Quaranta, Boskovic, Kitchen, De Rosario and now Pontius taking corner kicks. I think Pontius’ kicks seemed more dangerous. I’m not sure whether I’d rather see him in the box on the end of good corner, or taking them. I guess he could be the rare striker who takes the kicks.

  13. UCanStudyBuzzed says:

    the way Ream got turned inside out then torched by Nyassi last week did not look very All-Star or USMNT…

  14. Waterlewd says:

    Where’s the debt ceiling coverage!?!?!

  15. Ryan says:

    It worries me Dennis is such a worry wort. If Ream said we are going to get killed Dennis would be posting that Ream has no confidence and should not be out there. Ream gives the typical pro player media speak

    As a Red Bull fan its sad but UCanStudyBuzzed comment below is pretty accurate.

  16. nic d "the texas 2 stepper" says:

    Diego Forlan takes the kicks for Uruguay. I wished he were in the box to finish them but Uruguay does not suffer from having him on the delivery.

    Better to have his excellent delivery that creates the opportunity with suspect finishers than have suspect delivery and excellent finishers.

    That’s the situation I will live with until we get that teleporting station finished :)

  17. nico says:

    Ream is good and has a good future to look forward too…but he is highly overrated.