The Black & Gold are receiving a bolster for the stretch run.
Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter today confirmed that his team has agreed to terms with defender Emanuel Pogatetz, who is set to officially sign this week. Pogatetz, 31, comes to Columbus with high-level experience for club and country. The Austrian has won over 60 caps for his country, including appearances at Euro 2008, and has spent the majority of his club career in the Bundesliga and the Barclays Premier League.
Pogatetz serves as the de facto replacement for Giancarlo Gonzalez, who recently departed to Serie A's Palermo.
"[Pogatetz] is a player that we've come to terms with and we're going to bring him in," said Berhalter. "We think it's a great addition to the roster. He's a highly experienced defender, captain of his National Team ... Bundesliga, Premiership, you name it. Tons of experience. Good height. We think it's a great addition to the club. It's a different profile than Giancarlo. Giancarlo, you know you're getting the potential for a sale because of his age. This guy, I think is more of a person who can affect the culture of the club with his experience, his attitude and his mentality."
Pogatetz has played at Bayer Leverkusen, Middlesbrough, Hannover 96, VfL Wolfsburg, West Ham United and Nürnberg, among other topflight European club locations. While at Leverkusen, the defender was a teammate of Crew legend Frankie Hejduk, who helped inform Berhalter about the potential signing, saying that he has a "great attitude." The Austrian also carries a strong reputation for physical play, something that the Crew boss thinks fits well in MLS, but cautions that it might take time.
"He's going to need [an] adjustment to this League, all centerbacks do," said Berhalter. "There's an adjustment period. We think he has the necessary skillset to really make a difference. He's very committed in his challenges. He goes in extremely hard and he's very dedicated to winning the ball and being aggressive."
Despite the adjustment period, Berhalter said that the defender is in his immediate plans and he expects him to contribute this season. That might not happen immediately, since the Graz native's last competitive match came in an international friendly against the Czech Republic in June. Berhalter said that it might take a "couple of weeks" for Pogatetz to get fully fit, but thinks his club's strong defensive depth will enable it to wait out that period effectively.
"It helps all around when you look at how our backs have been performing. I'll talk about [Eric] Gehrig, [Tyson] Wahl and [Michael] Parkhurst, those specifically how they've been versatile. Eric's played center, he's played right. Michael's played the left side of centerback, the right side – this gives us depth that we're very comfortable with after losing Giancarlo."
Pogatetz is a left-footed player and projects as a left-sided centerback in a tandem with Parkhurst, who is capable of playing either left centerback or right centerback, as he has done with Giancarlo Gonzalez and Tyson Wahl, respectively. When Pogatetz is fit, he not only brings a physical element that Berhalter admitted the club lacks at the moment, but also brings the technical ability to mesh with the Crew's system.
"As a coach, sometimes you tend to want everything and you can't [have it]. You can't always have that. We're a very technical team. Our passing's very accurate. We're not the most physical team and we know that. We still can play; we still can be competitive. We have a certain way to play and we take pride in how we accomplish that. We don't foul opponents very often. We're one of the least-fouling teams in the League. We like to get the ball and play. If you look at our games, the ball's in play more than most teams in the League, if not the most.
"That's the type of identity we have and he also fits into that. He's very good on the ball. He's a very good passer; he's left-footed. He fits right into what we're doing and he has that dimension also."
Pogatetz is expected to be in town by the end of the week pending the finalization of the signing as well as the receipt of his P-1 visa and his International Transfer Certificate.