Soccer

Butler: De Guzman bleeds red for hometown club and country

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Noel Butler, TSN.ca
10/25/2013 12:04:40 PM
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London - It's not every day, in fact it's not every generation Canada produces an MVP of a Spanish La Liga club. Not only that, when Julian de Guzman first stepped on the pitch for Deportivo de la Coruna he became the very first Canadian to play in Spain's top tier.

It's quite an international pedigree to round off a resume already boasting an MVP award from the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. De Guzman received his first call up to the national team back in January 2001 and has been omnipresent ever since.

Now a mature footballer, 31-years of age and with Canada fully submerged in the murky waters of rock bottomless, the native Torontonian revealed he has no plans to retire from internationals.

"I still got that same feeling I got when I got that first call up," he told TSN.ca after last Tuesday night's 3-0 defeat to Australia. "I get excited by it, look forward to it. It's a huge honour of having over a decade of wearing the jersey. I still want to be a part of it"

Having knocked about various European leagues throughout his career, now playing for Skoda Xanthi in the Greek Superleague, de Guzman harbours no illusions of why yet again Canada not only lost, but failed miserably in front of goal against the Socceroos at Craven Cottage.

"We were playing against guys who are playing at higher levels than us," de Guzman forthrightly disclosed. "Also they have their own league. You could see they physically dominated us from the first minute to the end. That just shows that these guys are playing at their clubs as starters. Most of our guys it's not the case. We're not playing in high leagues."

Then he went into overdrive.

"As a nation we don't have our own league, there's only a handful of our guys starting at their clubs. That is something that is a huge concern."

Guilty on both counts are Canadian soccer's stakeholders.

Not the type to be an observer, through the cloudy lens of the rear view mirror, his mood lifted emphatically when discussing Generation Russia: the crop of Canadian talent expected to lead the charge to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

"On the bright side of things it was great to see the young guys get a chance. They never had this opportunity to play against a good team like Australia in this atmosphere as well. Craven Cottage is a great stadium."

"I think this is what the younger generation needs, they need to be in matches like this to commit errors, and pick up good habits in the long run. And get a chance at this type of exposure," de Guzman added.

"It's what our country needs. On an individual aspect it's important they go back to their clubs get involved in their clubs and they need to work on their fitness."

He's already identified the core upon whom the Canadian will need to rely when qualification for Russia 2018 gets underway.

"Since the beginning of this camp there is a handful of them; Russell [Teibert], [Ashtone] Morgan, [Samuel] Piette, [Doniel] Henry… These are the guys that are the new core of new generation coming, hopefully into Russia."

"These are the guys who are playing at their clubs at decent levels. Maybe Piette playing in the reserve team at Dusseldorf may not be equivalent to what MLS is, but he is getting good training also teaching."

"For a lot of the other young guys, including that core I just mentioned coming into these types of camps is the first time they are getting actual good coaching. They come out of this camp as a better player, they've learned something."

De Guzman cut no bones when fast tracking the timeline of the next generation as a core member of this current one, feeling their learning curve has been anything but linear.

"This is something that sadly has been lacking for a lot of Canadians, even Canadians up until now. Even guys like Dwayne [De Rosario] have said this is the most he has ever learned in a national team, or even in his career."

How's that for an endorsement of the current Canadian coach?

"So, I think this is a culture shock for us Canadians to get used to, it's something we have needed for a long time," de Guzman added. "It's not going to happen in two friendly games or even a couple of camps. It is going to happen over a long period of time. It is a new adjustment that will bring results in the long run."

Mighty impressed is the North Scarborough alumni with Benito Floro.

"What he has impressed me with is pretty much coming into a situation like this with the national team when the Canadian soccer nation is rock bottom for him to take the initiative and show that his philosophies could change the team, and the game in the country... [it] is one impressive thing."

"The other impressive thing is seeing most of the most of the Canadians blown away, questioning his philosophy, de Guzman added. "It reminds me of when I first went to Spain, and before I was in Spain I was in France and Germany knowing only Canadian football. Going to Spain the football I was being shown was kind of strange to me but after a while it actually made me into a far better player. I probably had the best moments of my career. This team will need to have a little time to adjust to what Floro wants. Like I said it can only go in one direction, which is forward."

The 32-year-old's comments kept with that rock bottom-feeling theme.

You can take the boy out of Toronto land him in places like France, Germany, Spain and Greece but you can't ever take away a life time love affair with his birth city.

No one has a real clue of what de Guzman had to deal with - on or off the pitch - during his tenure at BMO Field.

Who, then, are we to dare criticize him as things didn't exactly work out as hoped and expected from the midfielder whilst working from home? How unceremonious was De Guzman's departure from Toronto FC... Please do remind me.

Hardly surprising for the national team, de Guzman and De Rosario are roomies. Everyone belongs to some form of self- preservation society.

Who, then, could deny him his rather outlandish coloured Lamborghini? The man's evidently got European style? Why wouldn't he after spending 14 odd years on the continent?

When it was put to de Guzman to reveal his thoughts and feelings for a club he departed from in July 2012, there was no hesitation or pause in his voice.

"I love TFC. I love that club. I love the fact we have a professional team. It's my home team. It still remains a big chunk of my heart."

"It hurts to see what the team is going through and what they have been going through for so many years," he added. MLSE is one thing and TFC is another. It's just a very tough situation.

Not for De Guzman to reflect on whether Canada's original MLS club had broken down completely, suffered the football equivalent of the seven-year itch. He preferred to look to offer a solution, look to the future.

"It needs to be solved in a different way, a different way than in has been in the past. It hurts not only the fans [but] it also hurts the future of football in Canada. You have a lot of talented players coming through the ranks."

Name names he did. "Guys who have been in the Academy who are at Queens Park Rangers and were training with us in London - Dylan Carreiro, an ex-TFC player, Keven Aleman playing in Spain [who is] another ex-TFC player - that kind of saddens me to see that they still have to leave this academy in Toronto to still be better."

Then came an ominous warning.

"That's still the case for a lot of the guys and I just hope for guys like [Jonathan] Osorio, Morgan, Henry, for guys like that [Kyle] Bekker, too. It's not good for them to stay there too long if they want to become professionals."

Then a final tug at the heartstrings: "To know that, to feel that saddens me because that is the only thing that's available in Toronto."

"It's a very difficult situation and I think the only thing that could change TFC and finally having success is to start again."

"If it's rock bottom they have to start again."

Catch Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact live Saturday on TSN at 4pm et/1pm pt. The game can also be heard live on TSN Radio 1050 and CJAD 800 Montreal.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

Twitter: @TheSoccerNoel

Julian de Guzman (Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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