Starting wingers Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon are set to return from their respective injuries this week, with the latter set for a place in the matchday 18 for Wednesday's home tilt against the Houston Dynamo, head coach Ben Olsen said Tuesday.
DeLeon has been out since March 23, when he suffered a hamstring injury in the club's 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew. Pontius followed suit about a month later, as he suffered a groin injury in a D.C. training session that forced him to miss the club's second match against the Crew, a 3-0 loss on April 27. With its key pieces missing time, D.C. has sputtered to a league-worst 1-6-1 and tallied just four goals all season.
Last year, Pontius contributed a career-high 12 goals and four assists, while DeLeon turned in a stellar rookie season, with his six goals and four assists in the regular season being augmented with two postseason goals. In 2013, the two have combined for just one assist, with Pontius registering that in the match that saw DeLeon get injured.
With Wednesday's match against Houston being followed three days later by a road bout against league-leading FC Dallas, Olsen will exercise caution with rushing his attacking catalysts back too soon, saying that Pontius is more of a possibility for Saturday's match at FC Dallas Stadium.
"I think [DeLeon is] ready for the 18, yeah," Olsen said. "We're still evaluating [Pontius], see where he's at. We have a quick turnaround in Dallas, so we've got to gauge that a little bit. I'm not that focused on Dallas right now, because we don't have that luxury. We have to deal with Houston and get three points at home."
Pontius says that the groin injury was not a recurrence of the one he suffered in the playoffs last year, one that he exacerbated by trying to play through it against the Dynamo in the playoffs. That injury prevented him from accepting a call-up to the U.S. national team's January camp, and he took a wiser, more cautious approach this time around to ensure his long-term prospects remained sound.
"I learned my lesson very hard last year in Houston," Pontius said. "I wanted to be in that game so bad, but for long term it was a very stupid call on my part, so this one we're being much more careful with."