Hmm… de Guzman at TFC: maybe not that bad for CMNT

Those who follow the Canadian Men’s national team in times like these – ie. with games that matter at least two years away – are energetically debating the various pros and cons of Canada’s best footballer returning home to play for TFC.

The loose consensus seems to be that for Julian de Guzman to leave Europe at this stage of his career (he’s 28) to play in the MLS is a step down in terms of competitive playing time week in week out, and thus a bad situation for the Canada team.

But this line of argument, while valid, fails to account one for important problem with Canada’s best footballer: most Canadians have no idea who he is.

Canada’s next important game will be in July 2011 in the Gold Cup; our next really important game will be June 2012 in the next cycle of World Cup qualifying. And there is no question that any deterioration of Julian’s skills that occurs from playing in the MLS will be bad for Canada, because at 31 he should still be able to play an important role for the national side in three years time.

But the silver lining in this cloud is that a Julian de Guzman playing for TFC will probably raise his profile a great deal in this country. Because whether you’re a Casual or a Faux European Canadian soccer supporter – likely the two biggest groups of growing soccer fandom in this country – a talented midfielder at a mid-level La Liga side likely isn’t high on your radar.

TFC has carved out a narrow yet feverishly devoted niche inside the wider Toronto sporting landscape. The de Guzman signing will draw a lot of press in the centre of the Canadian universe, and I would hope that De Guzman will continue to be heavily marketed as “Canada’s soccer star.” For what that’s worth, there would likely be a rub-off effect on the public profile of the Canadian team as long as de Guzman remains in it.

So yes, it sucks that our best player will no longer play in a top European league, but if he finds success with TFC then maybe more people will care when he laces up his boots for Canada.

What do you think?

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16 Responses to “Hmm… de Guzman at TFC: maybe not that bad for CMNT”

  1. I think the Vs who are getting their panties twisted into a knot over this have lost the plot.

  2. It was my opinion when this was first rumoured during the Gold Cup that it would be best for Julian to turn down TFC and look for a deal in Europe. That is what happened, he didn’t get a deal. So the question is not whether Julian should be playing in Europe, but is playing for TFC better than not playing at all, the answer is a clear YES. So I think that now that our star is back in Canada we do have to make the most of it.

    I hope that Julian is marketed in a way that doesn’t annoy Canadian supporters. With teams already in Vancouver & Montreal, and possibly teams in Victoria, Ottawa, & Hamilton. I think that any marketing of TFC as “Canada’s team” Could lead to casual fans in other cities not caring who JDG is until he is wearing a Canadian Jersey again. Which is at least 8 months away.

    As an aside I think that every match that Canada plays is important as we fight for a top six seed in the next World Cup Draw.

  3. Toronto FC’s proud habit of, shall we say, “encouraging” its players not to wear the Maple Leaf is also a factor.

    Of course, The FC’s fans defend this by referring to things like any friendly, our continental championship, minor World Cup qualifying matches, and possibly any game that isn’t the last match of the World Cup against Italy as utterly meaningless and not worth stripping TFC of its God-given talent. And if we do play for the World Cup against Italy, the TFC fans will also be upset because they’ll be rooting for the Italians.

    (P.S.: I am bitter.)

    • Still doing your best to make friends in the South End, eh?

    • Alright… At most, AT MOST, a tiny fraction of TFC fans (likely those born in Italy) would actually cheer for Italy over Canada if they met in the World Cup. We’re not debating U.S. health care reform here, so no need to leave the land of reality.

    • Yeah, I spoke a little glibly. Brennan, De Rosario, Serioux, and Attakora were great for us in the Gold Cup, the second-most important tournament it is physically possible for Canada to play in.

      Oh, that’s right.

      (That’s why I’m bitter.)

      • It will be interesting to see if positions on many things — this included — soften once fans in Montreal and Vancouver face the prospect of losing a big core of their team through the middle of their MLS season.

        If you want to assign blame, assign it to MLS. The league is the one that insist on playing through international dates.

      • Agreed that the MLS deserves a lot of the blame. Other leagues that play through the International breaks, League One in England for example, at least have a provision that a team’s matches can be re-scheduled if they lose a lot of their squad to International matches.

        The way that the MLS operates in unfair to players, clubs, and fans. As undoubtedly players have to choose club or country and won’t be able to keep everyone happy. It is easier for me to understand players skipping out on a friendly that conflicts with league commitments. Mainly because the CSA should have the brains to look at the TFC schedule before planning one. But skipping out on the Gold Cup is a bit much, especially for a player like De Ro, who is until JDG signs the top Canadian player in North America.

      • I’m a big proponent of the Gold Cup, believe me when I say I think personally that it is important. But any decent lawyer would have been able to convince 12 of his peers that the latest edition of the tournament was – objectively – not actually that important.

        None of the big guns in Concacaf sent their big guns. And the Mexicans still watched in the millions and filled the stadiums in the thousands, which I’m sure is what the organizers are really concerned with.

        Next Gold Cup – with the Confed Cup place on the line and WCQ on the horizon – will be a different story. I think you’ll see more MLS players wanting to participate in it. And I hardly think that TFC or future versions of Vancouver and Montreal will block players from attending the 2014 WC qualifying cycle. That would cause about as big an uproar as possible in Canadian soccer circles. (Or Christ, at least I hope it would.)

      • I certainly, 100% blame MLS for their crappy schedules, not Toronto FC for wanting to win soccer games.

        My point is not “waah, TFC is bad and Mo Johnston is an evil Scottish man!” I’m sure I’ll hate it when the Whitecaps best players are off on international duty during key league matches. My point is that Julian De Guzman playing for Toronto FC means he’s less likely to be available for national matches, and that is a bad thing.

        No disrespect to the FC itself (also, that may have been the first time that “the FC” was actually gramatically correct).

  4. Renegade Gooner Says:

    I think this move is better for the CMNT then most people are initially considering.
    If De Guzman can raise his profile in canada it will be a big boost for Canadian soccer in the long term.
    Also he will play his club football with De ro, Serioux, Brennen, Gerba etc… That has to be a big plus as well.
    Lastly and this is a bit of a stretch, but maybe if JDG with TFC and living most of the time in TO and spending much more time with other members of the CMNT maybe his brother will consider playing his international football with canada…..

    • While I believe it would ultimately be better for him to be playing in Europe, I agree completely that there are positives to this development.

    • In regards to your last point: Jonathan De Guzman’s problem was never that he didn’t care about his brother, or even that he didn’t care about Canada. Everything I’ve ever heard about the JDGs suggests that the De Guzmans are closer than, say, my brother and I are. They get along extremely well.

      Basically, Jonathan was of the opinion that playing for the Dutch was better for him in the long term, and while Julian might have been rooting for Jonathan to play for the Canadian team other family members wanted to see him in orange. The only way that’s going to change is if a) De Guzman decides that his long-term interest would actually be served in Canada (which may end up happening: the Dutch have seemingly forgotten all about him) and b) he’s willing to go back and the Canadians are willing to take him back.

      Not really Julian-related, but worth mentioning.

      • I have to say that I share Lord Bob’s bitterness. As for playing regularly with Canadians at TFC as mentioned by Renegade Gooner. None of them save Gerba played for Canada. De Ro might come around. Brennan is essentially done with the CMNT. I would be surprised if Serioux is little more than a bench warmer next time Canada plays. So he can work on his chemistry with De Ro, Nana (if he makes the CMNT), & Gerba (if he makes the TFC lineup).

        I am all for trying to find the positives of JDG signing in Toronto, but building chemistry with bit part Canadian players (save De Ro) isn’t one that I would try to build up.

  5. Recently I’ve just been feeling extremely negative about our national team… I don’t even know why. I just have difficult mustering up excitement for a team that won’t play a competitive game for two fucking years. I’m trying believe me, I’m trying to find something to feel excited about. And for the first time today I wrote an article previewing 2014 qualifying. That is just depressing.

    • Usually when someone tells me to “think positively” about something I fantasize about kicking them in the throat, so in this case I’ll advise you to just not think too negatively about the CMNT. Or take a break and don’t think about it at all.

      Following a national side is what it is, and in our case we have it much worse than European or South American national teams that play way more often. I suppose the CMNT required a unique sort of dedication, but if it ever pays off? Oh baby will it all have been worth it…..

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