After joining the Columbus Crew last September, Austrian defender Emanuel Pogatetz has told the club’s official website that he is determined to make a major impact in his first full MLS season.
Pogatetz, 32, had struggled to find a new home in the summer after leaving Nurnberg at the end of his contract, before heading to Columbus to fill the void left in the wake of Costa Rican World Cup star Giancarlo Gonzalez’s $5 million departure for Palermo.
The former Middlesbrough and West Ham United centre-back would go on to make just two substitute appearances for Gregg Berhalter’s side during their post-season push, however, as he struggled to match his new teammates’ fitness levels coming off a four-month break.
Nevertheless, having now been able to get a full pre-season under his belt, the 61-times capped international is looking to have cemented a place in the starting XI once the new campaign kicks off on March 6.
“Obviously, my first goal is to make it into the starting XI," said Pogatetz. "Hopefully I can make a good enough impression in preseason for Gregg to decide to hand me a spot in the first XI.
“Hopefully, if I can achieve that, the overall target is to have a successful season and continue with the style of play and success we had last season.
"There’s a lot of distance we have to cover during the year by playing, traveling time zones," he added. "I think that is something I’ve had to adjust to. I think the guys are pretty fit. I think everyone can run. It’s just a different style of play.
“Again, we play a different style. We’re very offense-oriented. That’s something I have to adjust to as a defender, maybe because we play a very offensive style of football. Sometimes it’s a different way to defend in certain situations. It’s just something we work on in preseason, and so far I’m pleased with the progress."
Nicknamed 'Mad Dog' for his tenacious defending, Pogatetz chalked up 152 total appearances for Middlesbrough after arriving from Leverkusen for £1.5 million in 2005, while captaining the club for the duration of the 2008-09 season.
After moving on to Wolfsburg in 2010, and then to Hannover in 2012, the imposing Austrian would make a brief return to England for the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, when he made one start and six substitute outings during a six-month loan spell at West Ham.
With Columbus considered among the favourites in the Eastern Conference to make the MLS Cup final, fans will now be hoping to see him push on and showcase some of his past Premier League credentials over the course of 2015.