Speaking to MLSSoccer.com this week, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed that the former Middlesbrough and West Ham United defender has been demoted to fourth-choice at centre-back following a string of subpar displays, which, given his sizeable $250,000-per-year salary cap hit [£162,027], likely means the beginning of the end for him in Columbus.
“In the end, we want to be a successful team and we want to win games,” Berhalter told reporter Andrew King. “We want to put the right personnel on the field to be able to win games. In this case, throughout the year we’ve been patient with our back line.
“When we’ve made a change, we said, ‘OK, we’re going to make a change and we’re going to give it time.’ In the course of that time, we happened to win a lot of those games. I’m a firm believer in stability, and that was the decision for stability.”
Pogatetz, 32, joined the Crew last September after leaving German outfit FC Nurnberg at the end of his contract, but the Austria international struggled to break into the line-up during the final months of the 2014 campaign.
He began this term alongside captain Michael Parkhurst in the heart of the defence, however, and proceeded to start 11 of the club’s first 13 league games, while earning some solid reviews for his performances.
Things began to turn sour in June, though, when the man nicknamed “Mad Dog” because of his aggression took to Facebook to accuse the club of disrespect after being left on the bench for a 2-1 defeat to the Montreal Impact.
Emanuel Pogatetz's statement raises more questions. Was this not communicated that he was being rested? pic.twitter.com/tu6Hdsqzch— Patrick Guldan (@GuldanMR) June 7, 2015
Coach Berhalter attempted to sweep the issue aside at the time but, after starting the next five matches, the experienced stopper was again taken out of the line-up following a 3-0 loss at Montreal and has not been seen back in action since.
With his playing time now taken by new signing Gauston Sauro and MLS veteran Tyson Wahl, it looks like the former Boro favourite could be heading for the exit door before long, although Berhalter himself chose to remain tight-lipped about his future.
"I think that’s obvious that you don’t want to pay that much for a fourth-stringer, but I don’t think we’re at that point,” the Crew boss added. “We’re at the point where we’re focusing on this year. There’s a lot of soccer left to be played, and that’s the focus. Of course we’ve evaluated, we’ve thought about the future. But right now, it’s about the next game.”
Those comments certainly sound ominous for Pogatetz and, while he will likely be sticking around MAPFRE Stadium until the end of the season, few would be surprised if the tough-tackling Austrian is searching for a new club come the winter.
With his physicality and experience, plenty thought he would prove a key contributor to the Crew's play-off push just a few months ago, but he instead looks destined to become another European import who failed to settle across the pond.