The Call Up

Tomas Pochettino for Newcomer of the Year? Ben Sweat on what to expect from him and Austin

Tomas Pochettino - Austin FC - close up

Fresh off Austin FC's inaugural MLS match, fullback Ben Sweat joined The Call Up to discuss what to expect from his side this season.

Though they walked away from Week 1 without a point, losing 2-0 to LAFC, Sweat feels that better days are ahead – and that midfielder Tomas Pochettino will be one of their "starlights going forward."

The expansion side signed the 25-year-old Argentine this past February from Talleres, inking him to a Designated Player deal alongside Cecilio Dominguez. That puts him in contention for MLS' Newcomer of the Year award, which went to Columbus Crew SC midfielder Lucas Zelarayan in 2020.

"He's an exciting player," Sweat said of Pochettino. "Let's put it this way, every free-kick I've seen him take, he's put in. I haven't seen him miss a free-kick outside of the box yet, so I'm sure when he gets one lined up, hopefully he does what we've seen all preseason long. It's exciting. He's a good player, he's definitely a good player."

Now, Pochettino will face stiff competition for the 2021 Newcomer of the Year award. Dominguez could make a case, and then there's a healthy collection of other imports like FC Cincinnati forward Brenner, Minnesota United FC forward Ramon Abila and more. Summertime signings could enter the conversation, too.

While individual performance influences who earns Newcomer of the Year honors, team success also factors in. That could work in Pochettino's favor, as Sweat feels their LAFC showing was just a preview of what's to come.

"I think we played a good game versus LAFC, obviously we give up a deflection goal and we're pushing forward late in the game and we give up a transition goal," Sweat said. "I think we gave up our fair share of chances that could've put us ahead or put us even with LAFC."

Sweat feels Austin can score in bunches this year, outlining a philosophy from head coach Josh Wolff that's all about controlling the game.

"Everybody's got to be technically sound, have the ability to play out of the back, play in a mid-block, play in a high block, and when we don't have the ball, we want to high press and we want the ball back," Sweat said. "Josh and the coaching staff have been very adamant: we want to dictate the game, control the game, so when we don't have the ball, it's pressing to get the ball back, but then the collective unit, defending."

For more from Sweat and other MLS Week 1 updates, listen to the latest episode of The Call Up here.