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It's official: After weeks of rumors, Austin FC's Tomas Pochettino signs on loan with River Plate

Austin FC's Tomas Pochettino seems to be leaving on loan for Argentina team River Plate, according to multiple sources. (Austin FC/Twitter)

After several weeks of evidence from Argentinian sports journalists, Austin FC confirmed Monday that Argentinian midfielder Tomas Pochettino is headed back to his home country on a loan deal with Primera Division team River Plate.

The transfer was first announced on Monday, Dec. 28 by Cesar Luis Merlo, an Argentinian soccer journalist who was first to call Austin FC forward Sebastian Driussi's signing with the team in July. The report was supplemented on Tuesday, January 3 after ESPN Argentina's Juan Patricio Balbi posted pictures of Pochettino in Buenos Aires for an apparent medical screening with the team.

Balbi said in the tweet that Pochettino would sign the loan deal with the top-flight team in the next few hours, and by 3 p.m., Argentinian news site Pagina12 reported that the 25-year-old midfielder had officially inked with River Plate. When announced Monday, Austin FC said Pochettino was purchased on a year loan, after which he will either be bought by the team or return to Austin.

More signs hinted to the loan Monday when Austin FC Captain Alex Ring was promoted to one of the three available Designated Player slots on Monday. Each MLS team is allowed to have three Designated Players, or highly-paid players that can have combined salaries above each team's salary cap on their roster at a time. With Ring added to the ranks of existing DPs Pochettino, Cecilio Dominguez and Sebastian Driussi, it was clear that at least one would need to go.

With Austin FC, the attacking midfielder became a strong behind-the-scenes player for the team, taking a more defensive approach than previously expected. Pochettino saw the second-most tackles (32) and fourth-most shots on target (14) for the team, making 26 starts in 42 appearances. While his efforts rarely translated to goals, Pochettino racked up two goals and two assists in the season, making both of his goals in a 3-2 win over Houston Dynamo FC on Aug. 4 and earning MLS Player of the Week honors.

Pochettino will return to his roots with River Plate—the Argentinian got his start in the Primera Division, signing with River Plate rivals Boca Juniors for a season before going on loan for two years apiece at Primera Division clubs Defensa y Justicia and Talleres. Pochettino made a total of eight goals in 71 appearances in the league, including three goals in Argentina's professional football cup Copa de la Liga.

Pochettino's loan contract is the latest move Austin FC has made in its first offseason, including reports of Pochettino's possible replacement, 25-year-old Jhojan Valencia, joining the team.

Austin FC has officially signed MLS vets Maximiliano "Maxi" Urruti and Ethan Finlay as a new forward and midfielder, respectively, and has re-signed both Captain Ring and winger Jared Stroud.

Players that did not receive another contract include:

  • Kekuta Manneh
  • Aaron Schoenfeld
  • Brady Scott
  • Aedan Stanley
  • Ben Sweat
  • Sebastian Berhalter
  • Emmanuel Perez

Austin FC's second season begins with a home match against FC Cincinnati at Q2 Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 26.

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