July 17th, 2024

Former Canada captain de Guzman savouring life in New York Red Bulls front office

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on June 20, 2024.

Toronto FC's Julian de Guzman slips as he goes for the ball ahead of Montreal Impact's Collen Warner during second half of Amway Canadian Championship, Wednesday, May 2, 2012 in Montreal. Toronto FC will find a familiar face rooting against them Saturday at Red Bull Arena. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Toronto FC will find a familiar face rooting against them Saturday at Red Bull Arena.

Former Canada captain Julian de Guzman joined the New York Red Bulls as sporting director in February. The 43-year-old, Toronto’s first-ever designated player, is tasked with connecting all areas of the franchise.

“Honestly it’s a dream opportunity. It’s a dream job,” said de Guzman.

His main priority is the first team, working with both coaches and players, but he also keeps an eye on Red Bulls II and the club academy and says he is on the field “a lot.”

“Just making sure all of those departments are functioning the way they should be under the Red Bull umbrella “¦ Making sure that everybody’s aligned,” said de Guzman.

So far so good.

The Red Bulls (8-4-7) currently stand third in the MLS Eastern Conference and boast an unbeaten record at home (5-0-3). And academy product Julian Hall made headlines Wednesday when he scored the tying goal off the bench in a 2-2 draw at CF Montreal.

At 16 years 87 days, Hall becomes Major League Soccer’s second-youngest goal-scorer behind Freddy Adu (14 years 320 days).

De Guzman’s multi-faceted job description suits him. The Toronto native has worked hard to learn all aspects of the game on and off the pitch.

Former Canada Soccer president Victor Montagliani, now head of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice-president, called de Guzman a “Canadian soccer trailblazer.”

De Guzman won 89 caps for Canada between 2002 and 2016 including 25 games as captain. At club level, he started in France in the Olympique de Marseille system before moving to Germany, first with second-tier FC Saarbrücken before joining Hannover 96 in 2002 as the third Canadian to play in the Bundesliga.

De Guzman then became the first Canadian to play in Spain’s La Liga, named Deportivo La Coruna’s player of the season in the 2007-2008 season.

In 2009, he joined Toronto FC as the league’s first Canadian designated player. De Guzman made 93 career appearances for TFC before a 2012 trade sent him to FC Dallas.

He went on to play in Germany for Jahn Regensburg and Greece with Skoda Xanthi FC. He finished his playing career with the now-defunct Ottawa Fury. He captained the side and, in his last season in 2016, doubled as Ottawa’s reserve team coach.

Upon his retirement, the Fury said de Guzman had played 513 career games and 38,221 minutes for club and country.

He went on to serve as Ottawa’s assistant coach, head coach and general manager.

“That transition went really smoothly, in my eyes,” said de Guzman.

“Did I know exactly what I wanted to do at that moment? Probably not,” he added. “But once I had that experience as an assistant coach, assistant GM for about six to eight months, I got a stronger feeling of what I felt suited me best “¦ It felt this was the right thing for me.

“Then they gave me the opportunity to be the GM of the club and for me, that experience in itself doesn’t get any better than what I went for the couple of years being GM of the Fury, being able to manage budgets being able to work with agents and sign deals and bring players on board. And kind of create a philosophy I felt that would have worked well with the club.”

A skilled technical player, de Guzman was good on the ball and able to link up with a teammate.

He took part in four World Cup qualifying cycles and played under eight Canadian managers. De Guzman also played in six CONCACAF Gold Cups, made the tournament all-star team in 2007, 2009 and 2013 and was tournament MVP in 2007 when Canada reached the semifinals.

He has since worked with Canada Soccer, helping evaluate young talent.

There is plenty of opportunity to learn within the Red Bull organization with football teams in Austria (FC Red Bull Salzburg and FC Liefering), Germany (RB Leipzig) and Brazil (Red Bull Brasil) as well as Major League Soccer.

De Guzman regularly consults with Red Bull’s other sporting directors under the leadership of Red Bull Soccer technical director Mario Gomez, a former German international.

“Working with him has been an honour, a true honour,” said de Guzman.

De Guzman works closely with Jochen Schneider, appointed the New York Red Bulls head of sport in June 2022, and head coach Sandro Schwarz, who took charge of the team in December 2023.

De Guzman’s office is right next to the scouting director so talent discussions are common.

De Guzman is also a part-owner and co-founder of semi-pro Simcoe Rovers County FC, a Barrie-based team in League1 Ontario. He also served as Simcoe’s president and sporting director, yielding those responsibilities when he took the Red Bulls job.

His family remains in Toronto, for the time being, with de Guzman based in New Jersey some 15 minutes from the Red Bulls training facility. He hopes they will be reunited soon.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2024

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