Ex-Middlesbrough and West Ham man tipped for big MLS season

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After a promising season debut, Columbus Crew SC teammate Michael Parkhurst believes Emanuel Pogatez is set to give MLS strikers a real headache in 2015.

Columbus Crew SC might have suffered a 1-0 defeat in their MLS season opener at the Owen Coyle-managed Houston Dynamo last Saturday, but the performance of centre-back Emanuel Pogatetz was one clear positive to take from the game.

The former Middlesbrough and West Ham United defender picked up the Crew’s man of the match award for his efforts but, judging from his comments to the club’s official website, there should be few concerns about the honours going to his head.

“There’s only been one game to play so far, so there’s not a lot I can say," the Austrian declared. "The first game went well, apart from the result. I think we had a good performance, and with a little bit more luck, we could’ve won the game.

“Also, I was pleased with my individual performance. I hope I can keep this standard for the season. So far it’s going well, but it’s too early to say anything. It’s only one game."

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 departure for Palermo.

He would go on to make just two substitute appearances for Gregg Berhalter’s side during their post-season push, but club captain Michael Parkhurst believes his centre-back partner will prove one of the league’s best defenders this term.

"[Pogatetz] has really opened up," the US international explained. "He’s a super good person off the field, really well-liked in the locker room. He brings a really physical presence on the field as well.

“He’s loud, he goes hard on tackles and I think guys around the league will notice him pretty quickly because he’s a good defender and he likes to get stuck-in. He puts a little bit of fear in attackers’ minds, which is good for me to play with. He’s the enforcer out there, but he’s also very calm on the ball."

Nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his tenacious defending, Pogatetz made 152 appearances for Middlesbrough between 2005 and 2010, before spells in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg and Hannover, and also took in a six-month loan spell at West Ham in 2013.

The 61-times capped international is well-travelled at this stage of his career, but he believes he just might have found a long-term home in Columbus.

“You can feel the progress within the city," he added. "You can see the city is moving forward. You can also feel it in the soccer club. I feel good to be part of such a lively city, a city in progress like its soccer club.”

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