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Introducing New Crew Signing Emanuel Pogatetz

Last week the Black and Gold signed defender Emanuel Pogatetz. He met with the media on Monday

Pat Murphy

Like many of MLS' international signings, Emanuel Pogatetz is probably an unknown player to most Columbus Crew fans. The center back who has played in England with Middlesbrough F.C. and West Ham United and Germany with Hannover 96, VfL Wolfsburg, and 1. FC Nurnberg, among other locations, will now ply his trade in Columbus.

So what drew the Austrian to Ohio's capital city?

"I had a really good conversation with Gregg Berhalter," Pogatetz said.

"After the first two times we were talking on the phone, I had a really good feeling about coming to this [city] and that it would be a really good choice for me. I think that made the difference in the end, why I decided to come to MLS and especially to the Crew."

Pogatetz signed with the Black and Gold a week ago and arrived in Columbus last Thursday. After his first two training sessions, he gave his early impressions of his new team.

"It's been great," he said. "I had a very warm welcome from the team and from the coach and from the whole staff. 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 back playing. Playing on the field, getting on the ball, so I quite enjoy it."

After the departure of center back Giancarlo Gonzalez, who was sold to Palermo at the end of August, the Crew were left a bit thin on the back line. At the time of the transfer, head coach Gregg Berhalter indicated he was happy using Tyson Wahl, but Pogatetz will provide depth over the final part of the season.

"Our back group has been doing fairly well," Berhalter said on Monday.

"We've been pleased with our center backs and how they've been playing, but what I would say is when [Pogatetz's] fit, and I think that's a key component is his fitness because it's hard to ask a guy to go out there and perform when they're not 100%. I think it's moving him closer to that mark and then letting him go."

Fitness is the issue for the center back, who was out of contract before signing with the Crew. With only six matches remaining in the regular season, Pogatetz is in a race to get in shape in order to contribute this year.

"I have to see," he said when asked how quickly he would be game fit.

"Of course I'm working as hard as possible to be ready to play competitive games as soon as possible but it's hard to put a time scale on it. I have to look how it goes the next couple of days and I think at the end of this week we will decide when I'm ready to help the team out."

Once is ready, Berhalter believe he will be a good fit for his side. He pointed to his vocal leadership and experience as two qualities that will help the Crew as they attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Pogatetz hopes his attributes can help the team as well.

"What I try to do is to be as professional as possible and bring in my experience in Europe over the last 10 years or more," he told the gathered media.

"Hopefully I can be a good example for the young players; show them a probably different approach to some of the things I've seen in Europe and on the other hand, I hope I can bring in my quality and help the team on and off the field to progress."

Pogatetz believes he will fit in Columbus' possession style of play, having been a part of similar systems while in Europe.

"I think the coach is a lot about passing the ball," he said. "I'm used to that from my old coach back in Germany, we also had this approach of the game."

Of course, the nickname "Mad Dog" was given to the defender for his physical style of play, which he also thinks will benefit him in his new league.

"I'm quite a physical player so I think it will be good for me so I can adapt to the league as quick as possible. Because what I've seen so far, it's quite physical and the players are very fit. I'm really looking forward to see what it's like to play in the MLS and it's a real exciting experience for me."

The new Crew signing has made 61 appearances with the Austrian national team and the 31-year old believes his career with his country is not complete.

"It's possible," he said when asked if he expected to be called in any time soon.

"I spoke to the manager of the national team before I left and he said it makes no difference whether I play in Europe or far away, here in the MLS. He said it will be about performances and how we play over here."

"We have to see, but it's possible I will get selected probably in the next couple of games again, but we have to see."

If Pogatetz can get match fit quickly, he could be another important addition for Berhalter and his staff, who have rarely missed in their short time in Columbus, and help the team achieve their goal of the MLS Cup playoffs.