Chris Pontius

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MLS Snapshot: Fire lose again, continue slide into KO round

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire’s slide toward the mean — some might call it regression, indicating maybe, just maybe, they overachieved during the first half of the season — continued on Saturday, following a brief reprieve to begin the month. Veljko Paunovic’s side lost its seventh game in 11 outings, falling 3-1 away to the Philadelphia Union. Bastian Schweinsteiger remains sidelined with a calf injury, but the rest of Chicago’s key figures — Nemanja Nikolic, Dax McCarty, David Accam and Matt Polster remain in place. Chris Pontius did the majority of the damage on Saturday, bagging Philadelphia’s first two goals, followed by CJ Sapong for the third. Luis Solignac grabbed a consolation goal inside the final 25 minutes, but the damage had been done. The result means Chicago (48 points) remain third in the Eastern Conference, still four points back of New York City FC and just two points clear of Atlanta United, who have two games in hand.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Pontius heads the cross home for 1-0 — Keegan Rosenberry cut inside and delivered a delicate, left-footed cross into the box. Pontius got away from his man and met the ball with his head at the top of the six-yard box.

55′ — Pontius again, this time on the rebound — Fafa Picault’s shot was saved by Matt Lampson, but no one followed up to boot the rebound clear. Pontius reacted quickest, and the lead was two.

64′ — Sapong pokes it home for 3-0 — This is Sapong’s 14th of the season, tying Sebastien Le Toux’s club record (2010), and reminded me once again the Peter Vermes insisted on playing Sapong as a winger for multiple seasons before trading him.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Chris Pontius

Goalscorers: Pontius (10′, 55′), Sapong (64′), Solignac (67′)

Pontius replaces injured Saief on USMNT Gold Cup roster

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U.S. Men’s National Team debutant Kenny Saief’s CONCACAF Gold Cup is over before it even began.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that Saief suffered a groin injury in the time since making his debut Saturday in the USMNT’s 2-1 friendly victory over Ghana and has been replaced on the Gold Cup roster by Philadelphia Union midfielder Chris Pontius.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s 2017 Gold Cup coverage ]

The outside midfielder, who plays a similar position to Saief, has six assists in 17 Major League Soccer games this season and made his first two USMNT appearances this past January and February in friendly matches against Serbia and Jamaica.

The news is a blow to the American-born and Israeli-raised Saief, who recently completed his one-time FIFA switch to play for the USMNT after making a pair of appearances in friendly matches for Israel.

Meanwhile it’s a boost to Pontius, who is enjoying some of his best soccer since overcoming a number of injury-riddled seasons with D.C. United.

Chris Pontius named MLS Comeback Player of the Year

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After moving from one Eastern Conference side to another, Chris Pontius proved his worth in 2016 and earned a league honor to boot.

[ MORE: Should Klinsmann stay on as USMNT manager after WCQ defeats? ]

Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that the Philadelphia Union midfielder earned MLS Comeback Player of the Year honors after dazzling in his first season with the club.

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Pontius, 29, totaled led the team in goals (12) and added six assists for Jim Curtin’s side, which made the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.

The California native joined the Union in 2016 after spending the previous seven seasons in MLS with D.C. United.

New York City FC midfielder Frank Lampard and Orlando City’s Kevin Molino finished second and third, respectively, in the award’s voting.

MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 0-4 Philadelphia Union (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): There isn’t a more dysfunctional team in MLS right than the New England Revolution, who have now given up 11 goals in their last three games. Why are the Revs so bad defensively? Well, it could have something to do with the fact they’ve got one center back on their entire roster. The month is August, the season started in March. The latest side to run up the score on Jay Heaps’ bunch was the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. Alejandro Bedoya made his MLS debut after signing with the Union at the transfer deadline and went 72 minutes before being subbed out with the Union 3-0 up. The victory puts the Union (34 points) fourth in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Montreal Impact, who lost on Saturday, and just two points back of the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC for second and third, respectively. The Revs, somehow, still hold a playoff spot, sixth in the East having played two more games than Orlando City SC with whom they are tied on points.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered 

2′ — Sapong’s glancing finish makes it 1-0 very early — Unsolicited advice for the Revs defenders who quit on the play without a whistle being blow: Don’t.

51′ — Pontius gifted a goal for 2-0 — Reminder: the Revs are two-thirds of the way through an entire season with one center back on their entire roster. It’s going exactly how you’d expect it to go.

54′ — Marquez heads home from a corner for 3-0 — Have you heard the Revs only have one center back on their entire roster? What a joke.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Chris Pontius

Goalscorers: Sapong (2′), Pontius (51′), Marquez (54′), Alberg (90+3′)

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 2-0 New York City FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Let’s not jump to a too-grand conclusion this early in the 2016 season, but the Philadelphia Union are pretty alright. Jim Curtin’s side will finish the weekend top of the Eastern Conference following a 2-0 home victory over New York City FC on Saturday (couple with Montreal Impact’s 2-0 home loss to Toronto FC), their fourth win in seven games to begin the campaign. Chris Pontius (third of the season) and C.J. Sapong (fourth) were the goalscorers on the day. The question that remains for the Union: the starting 11 is pretty strong, but what kind of depth exists when the injury bug inevitably hits and half of Curtin’s preferred lineup is unavailable for selection? That’ll be the determining factor in their season, deciding whether or not they have staying power in the East’s six playoff places.

[ MORE: Previewing Week 8 in MLS ]

Three moments that mattered

25′ — Villa smashes the crossbar early on — David Villa went inches from giving NYCFC an early lead, a moment that would have likely changed the course of the game completely. Instead, less than a minute later…

26′ — Pontius slots home from Barnetta’s cross — Does MLS still do Comeback Player of the Year? If they do, I’d like to nominate Pontius right now. He’s the (still very) early leader, no doubt.

41′ — Sapong flicks it past Saunders for 2-0 — Sapong is the best forward in MLS that nobody is talking about. His game is complete: hold-up play, aerial presence, to finishing inside the penalty area — he does it all. I hope you’re watching, Jurgen.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tranquillo Barnetta

Goalscorers: Pontius (26′), Sapong (41′)