Pontius returns to take on former UCSB teammates

Feb. 23, 2011

Chris Pontius helped lead the UCSB men's soccer team to the 2006 national championship. He concluded his Gaucho career in 2008, earning All-America status. Pontius, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the history of the program, returned to Harder Stadium Tuesday night with D.C. United for an exhibition game against UCSB. The Major League Soccer side defeated the Gauchos, 1-0.

"Driving to this game tonight, pulling on the 217 to come into campus, it was a good feeling," said Pontius, who finished with 29 career goals at UCSB. "This place has always been like a second home to me and it was great to be back."

D.C. United, which opens its season March 19 at home against the Columbus Crew, arrived in Oxnard last week to continue training camp and prepare for three preseason games on the West Coast. UCSB was its second.

Pontius is entering his third season with the club that drafted him out of UCSB. He missed most of 2010 with a hamstring problem that has plagued him since his Gaucho days - but the skilled striker, who played the entire first half against his alma mater, says he feels the injury is behind him and that productive years in professional soccer lie ahead.

"I'm hoping that we fixed the problem for good," he said. "It was something that I needed fixed and the doctors and the team decided to go ahead and do the surgery. I've been working hard to get back into shape and all I need to do now is get back into full 90-minute fitness."

An added bonus for Pontius was a chance to compete against his brother, Tim, who is going into his senior season at UCSB. The two had not played against each other since an alumni game in high school.

"Tonight was the only other time we've ever played against each other," Chris said. "I thought he did very well out there."

Pontius says he hopes to remain healthy enough to take his game to the highest level of professional soccer.

"Right now I'm focused on having a good season with D.C. and then hopefully open up some doors from there," he said. "I would also like to get another shot with the national team once I get back to full fitness."

The Gauchos held their own against the pros. The game was scoreless until the 81st minute, when Blake Brettschneider, an unsigned draft pick, scored his third goal in the last two games for D.C. United.

Brettschneider had entered the game less than two minutes before his goal, which deflected off the right post past UCSB keeper Eric Reyes.

"We competed well, we battled hard in the first half and I thought we created a couple of good chances," UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "I thought the first half was a good indication for us because I really think we did some nice things against what was basically their first team."