Time is of the essence for Emanuel Pogatetz.
With two training sessions alongside his new teammates under his belt, the goal for the newest Crew player is to get on the field as soon as possible and help the Black & Gold to the MLS Cup Playoffs. To do that, the Austrian international knows he needs to adjust to life in America as well as regain his match fitness.
"I had a very warm welcome from the team, the coach and the whole staff," said Pogatetz. "I got my first couple of training sessions in. I feel a bit tired at the moment because of the flight and I still have to catch up a little bit from the fitness side, but it's a lot of fun to be playing on the field, getting on the ball … I quite enjoy it."
Pogatetz's fitness is a day-by-day issue; the defender admitted that it would be hard to put a time schedule on it, but said that a closer inspection and decision would be made later in the week. Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said last Friday that Pogatetz might be a candidate to play this weekend against New England.
Today, the Crew boss elaborated that getting the Austrian up to full speed is a priority.
"He looks good, but his fitness isn't there yet and that's something we're going to be working on these next couple days and weeks, to get him there."
Continued Berhalter: "Training's a lot different from a game. We're going to keep progressing and get him there."
Pogatetz has been in Columbus since last Thursday evening, and so far, he likes what he sees. He said that while he had the opportunity to check out local landmarks such as High Street and the North Market, it's all about getting acclimated to the Crew and getting on the field for the Austrian.
"My first impression so far has been really good," said Pogatetz. "I feel it's been the right choice to come here. I also like the facilities and the staff, how professional everything is. Everything is good so far. The only thing now is that I have to push myself every day so I'm back to my full fitness as soon as possible, because there are not many games to go in the regular season and I would like to be a part as much as possible."
When it comes to fitting into Berhalter's system, Pogatetz thinks he can be an asset to the side. He credited a former coach in Germany for playing a similar passing and possession-oriented style, and the player nicknamed "Mad Dog" also thinks his physicality can play well in MLS.
"I am quite a physical player, so I think it will be good for me to adapt to the League as quick as possible. [From] what I have seen so far, it's quite physical and the players are very fit. I'm really looking forward to seeing what its like to play in MLS. It's a really exciting experience for me."
The defender also brings years of elite European experience to the Black & Gold, a fact that is not lost on him as he integrates as a veteran presence into a new dressing room full of young players. Pogatetz also knows that he has big shoes to fill as the de facto replacement for Giancarlo Gonzalez.
"The Crew lost a very good defender. I will do my best to fill the gap he left within the team, but obviously I am a different kind of player. What I will try to do is to be as professional as possible and bring in my experience from Europe over the last 10 years or more. Hopefully I can be a good example for the young players, show them probably a different approach to some of the things I have seen in Europe. On the other hand, I hope I can bring in my qualities on and off the field to progress."
With the individual goal of getting on the field quickly, the Austrian is eager to help the Crew achieve its team goal.
"I came here to help the team get to the playoffs. Hopefully I can do that. Hopefully we can achieve this target together. It would be great. The team is in a great position so far. Hopefully we can push on from that and make it to the playoffs. I think it would be a great achievement for all of us."