MLS Signings: Digging deeper on Pogatetz, Sinima-Pongolle, and Pintos

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A trio of signings brought a set of new names to Major League Soccer on Tuesday, with three teams holding out hopes of a playoff return strengthening their squads before next week’s roster freeze. For one team, that means a former international sliding into a new position of need, while two other clubs look for solutions amid lingering concerns.

We’ll start in Columbus, where the addition of a former Premier League defender could help solidify the team’s playoff spot.

Emanuel Pogatetz signs with Columbus

The 31-year-old Austrian defender has enjoyed a long career in the top flights of Germany and England. Though Pogatetz most recently spent time with Nuremburg and Hannover, he’s best known for his five seasons at Middlesbrough, where he was a mainstay under Gareth Southgate.

The Austrian international has also made 61 appearances for his country, appearing in all three games for the team at the 2008 European Championships.

A big (6’3″) often rough defender, Pogatetz is capable of playing left back, though his primary position is in the middle. Particularly in Columbus’s scheme, he is likely seen as a replacement for Giancarlo Gonzalez, who moved to Italy this summer.

Since that move, Tyson Wahl has filled in ably next to Michael Parkhurst, though Pogatetz could be a significant upgrade. The main question, in addition to whether he can assimilate to his new environment, is whether he can handle the one-on-one situations that arise from Gregg Berhalter throwing his fullbacks forward.

Florent Sinima-Pongolle signs with Chicago

With Mike Magee out, the long-established connection between the Fire and Sinima-Pongolle finally produced a roster spot. In terms of resume, this 29-year-old (seriously, only 29?) has stops that would make most MLS talent blush (Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon). Unfortunately, the one-time France international hasn’t been particularly productive at any of them.

In 12 years of European soccer, the versatile Le Havre product has only produced double-digit goals twice – the two years he spent at former La Liga side Recreativo Huelva. Though he scored 22 times in 38 league matches there (2006-2008), Sinima-Pongolle’s been limited to 21 goals in 192 other appearances in France, England, Spain, Portugal, and Russia.

In a world where Bradley Wright-Phillips is leading MLS in goals, you can only be so suspect of any signing. But for those inclined to read into Sinama-Pongolle’s time at Liverpool, his more recent stop may prove more informative. Over two seasons with Russia’s FC Rostov, Chicago’s new striker scored twice in 18 appearances.

Pablo Pintos signs with San Jose

Pintos is the least recognizable of Tuesday’s signings, though the 6’0″ right back has some impressive clubs on his CV, too. A product of Defensor Sporting in Uruguay, Pintos was sold to Argentina’s San Lorenzo in 2009, six months before Lazio paid close to $2 million to acquire the then-22-year-old. Pintos never touched down in Serie A, instead being loaned out to Getafe (Spain) before making his way to Kasimpasa in Turkey. Coming full circle, Pintos return to Argentina then Uruguay over the last year, making eight appearances for his original club in the last eight months.

During the last two years, however, Pintos has seen relatively little playing time. Between Turkey, Argentina, and Uruguay, he’s made only 17 league appearances (nine starts), and while it’s encouraging he continues to garner interest from teams, those teams are now part of a descending career arc. Instead of building toward a career in Europe, he’s coming back from a short one.

Based on his usage and the limited information available online (which, of course, includes some nice YouTube highlights), Pintos appears to be a right back capable of getting forward, one that’s occasionally filled in at right midfield. With San Jose looking for options at right back (having used Andreas Gorlitz, Brandon Barklage, Ty Harden, and Shaun Francis there this season), Pintos may finally get the time he needs.

It will be the first time since leaving San Lorenzo that Pintos has played consistently. When he gets that time, we’ll see how much is left of the player the once drew big money from Lazio.