Austin FC’s newest Designated Player, Tomás Pochettino, was officially announced Thursday morning, with an impressive resume signaling plenty of potential as an MLS player.
Pochettino developed in one of Argentina’s top systems, rising through Boca Juniors’ youth and second-team ranks before debuting with the legendary Argentine club’s first team in 2015 as an 18-year-old.
After playing his entire pro career in his native country, most recently with Talleres, the 25-year-old is making the move to MLS, becoming the latest South American-born player to become a designated player and a potential difference-maker.
Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna and Head Coach Josh Wolff are excited about what Pochettino could bring to the squad they’re building for this year’s debut.
“Tomás is a player we’ve monitored for almost a year now, and we’re excited to have landed him,” Wolff said, adding that he has “very good qualities to the way that we want to play, he's an attack-minded midfielder, has very good dynamics in and around the penalty box to combine and to shoot from distance.”
Reyna added, “He’s very intelligent, in finding spaces in the final third, and in passing. His runs off the ball are very smart. He's a team player, he's very responsible as well on the defensive side, and with him being positioned in the middle of the field, that's important.” He also notes that Pochettino’s development in Argentina’s top domestic league, which he characterized as a physical and tactical league with talented players, will help him transition to MLS.
Both Reyna and Wolff are thinking about where he’ll fit into the attack, lauding his versatility as part of that equation. While Wolff sees him as a central player, he noted, “He's got exceptional qualities,” fitting into a vision of attacking players “to get visibility, to drive with the ball, commit players, shoot from distance, get into the penalty box, the determination to score goals.
“You want these five guys to have a real desire to score goals, and he has that. And now, we'll try to help nurture that and make it a little more collective, a little bit more of a collection of ideas with all the players in the front.”
Pochettino has had a strangely similar journey to MLS as two other Argentine designated players — the LA Galaxy’s Cristian Pavon, born just 11 days before the new Austin FC midfielder, and Minnesota United’s Emanuel Reynoso, about two months older than Pavon. Whereas Pochettino started with Boca Juniors and went to Talleres before moving to MLS, both Pavon and Reynoso started with Talleres and then went to Boca Juniors before MLS came calling.
“This is a dream come true,” Pochettino said in his introductory press conference on Thursday. “This is a league that has been growing a lot. There’s a lot of talent in Major League Soccer, it’s a beautiful league, and it’s very competitive, and I’m going to try to do my very best to succeed in this league. I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the season starting and being in Austin.”
Pochettino joins Paraguayan attacker Cecilio Dominguez in Austin FC’s inaugural Designated Player ranks. Like Dominguez — who most recently competed with Club Guarani on a 2020 loan from Austin FC — Pochettino got to experience South America’s top club competition, CONMEBOL Libertadores. Pochettino played there with Talleres in 2019, scoring a goal in four appearances.
But it was at last year’s Copa Diego Armando Maradona, an Argentine domestic cup involving that league’s 24 teams, where Pochettino distinguished himself and put himself on a number of teams’ radar, including Austin FC, which Pochettino maintained was “my number one option, because they trusted me from the get-go.
“I think I’m a very versatile player,” he said. “I can play different positions, I can play depending on what the game dictates. I like to have the ball, I like to give assists, I like to score and try to get closer to the box, and I like working together with my teammates.
“I think those are the most positive traits in me,” he added, noting that he’ll look to Wolff and Reyna’s direction on where and how to play for his new team.
Wolff and Reyna indicated that they expect great things from their latest player, looking to him to be a leader, while expecting him to fit in with the South American players on the roster who are developing a notable rapport.
“He’s had his mind set on coming to Austin, and we're so excited to add him to our team,” Reyna noted. “He's going to be an important part of our team, joining what is already a really good squad at a great age. We're just thrilled to finally have it completed.”
Now, Pochettino, known to his friends and teammates as Toto or Poche, is moving to Austin to join a club embarking on its inaugural MLS season.