TFC 2012

In Praise of De Guzman

Much Criticized, Vastly Underappreciated

It was inevitable. Toronto FC need to restock and rebuild again. TFC’s original Designated Player has a contract ending in December. Moving Julian de Guzman out clears salary cap and frees up a DP slot in the roster.

It seems like an inglorious and ignoble severance, but that’s life as a professional athlete. It’s not personal.

As he’s leaves us, there will be legions of doubters and haters who cheer. As it has been since the start of his time in Toronto FC red, this criticism misses the point and was far too personal. JDG is not a flamboyant guy. He’s not media hound or a stalwart team leader. He’s not really a goal scorer either, nor was he ever expected to be.

Far too many TFC fans misunderstood him and the deal that brought him to Toronto. They only saw his salary as a stiff price for his superficial shortcomings. This is, and has always been, an unjust and overly simplified view of JDG.

In my opinion, he was at his absolute best for TFC in their CONCACAF matches. He seemed to come to life in those games, playing at a higher tempo and standard than he often achieved in MLS competition. Clearly, he was most at home with Latin American opponents. Their size and style of play was most similar to his own.

In that regard, de Guzman will be an asset to FC Dallas. Their midfield-heavy formations and tactics will be well-served by his abilities. It is, after all, a team filled with Latin players who will immediately connect with him and his style of play. Like many other departed TFC players, JDG may actually thrive with his next team. The largely hispanic fan base in Dallas will also appreciate his game more and have more interest in his contributions than the fickle and shallow haters up north.

I won’t claim JDG is above criticism. If you want to knock him, it would be for his smaller size being a liability in the MLS. That said, I never really saw him getting pushed around that much in MLS play. You might also point to him coughing up possession more than he should have, and that’s fair. He also was playing with a roster of guys who offered little support and seemed to have trouble anticipating his instinctive reactions and decisions. Then there were also matches where he made some rash fouls and took cards more than necessary. But, given the demands of playing in TFC red the past few seasons, you can’t really fault the guy for letting frustration get the better of him at times.

He came with a big price tag and many people thought his skills and abilities were not worth it. He played through injury and multiple management changes. He remained a consummate professional throughout, as I’m sure he will be through this transition in his career.

Goodbye Julian. May you find more success ahead.

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