Ottawa Fury FC made relative headlines on Friday morning, announcing its capture of Canadian international Julian De Guzman. The fresh-faced club in the nation’s capital is believed to have pipped MLS’s Columbus Crew in the courting battle for the 30 year-old midfielder.
It has been a winding, rollercoaster-like journey in football for De Guzman, who has won Canadian Player of the Year and been named to multiple CONCACAF Gold Cup all-tournament teams. On the other end of the spectrum, he hasn’t played a competitive match in almost a year, and has most recently turned out for, well, bad teams in Jahn Regensberg (2012-13, relegated from German second tier) and Skoda Xanthin (2013-14, 16th in Greek top flight).
While the move no doubt brings a headline-grabbing name to the nation’s capital, it may beneath the surface be an effort to draw the attention of Canadian men’s national team boss Benito Floro to finally take the club, and the NASL, seriously.
Floro, who took the reins in Toronto in August of 2013, has been persistently ignorant of any NASL talent not named Hanson Boakai. With De Guzman and his seventy-four international caps moving to Ottawa, surely Floro will have to at least keep a semi-interested eye on the team in the nation’s capital now, right?
We shall see. From an on-pitch standpoint, the move obviously increases Fury FC’s depth in the midfield. De Guzman has slowed down substantially, but should still be a regular in manager Marc Dos Santos’s starting eleven once he gains match fitness.
The move also sees the likes of Nicki Paterson and Mauro Eustaquio pushed down the depth chart. While Eustaquio’s youth and lack of first team experience meant he probably wouldn’t have seen many minutes in 2015, Paterson seems to be the odd man out at age thirty.
With young Polish product Patryk Misik having impressed thus far in training camp, the logjam in the heart of the pitch for Ottawa is starting to thicken.
Thus, while De Guzman is far removed from his days as Deportivo La Coruña’s top man in 2007, or his days as the first-ever Canadian designated player in MLS, the move is a step in the right direction for Fury FC. He will bring experience, depth, and at least in theory, a little more attention from the national team to the nation’s capital.
The signing of the thirty-four year old from Toronto almost certainly signals the end of Dos Santos’s roster tinkering, at least for the pre-season. A quick scan of the Ottawa roster shows us a team that is much-improved from its inaugural campaign, with Rafael Alves, Mike Randolph and co. steadying the backline, De Guzman and Misik bolstering an above-average midfield, and the likes of Andy Wiedeman and Paulo Júnior adding a different offensive dynamic up front.
Fury FC will open up their sophomore season in the NASL on Saturday, April 4th in Carolina. While the RailHawks are predicted to fall somewhat from their fifth-place showing last season, WakeMed Soccer Park was far from kind to Ottawa on their only journey there last season. Marc Dos Santos’s side was handed a resounding 3-0 defeat in Carolina early in last year’s fall season, and the red and black will be looking for a substantially better result there to begin 2015 amidst increased expectations.