TORONTO — Julian de Guzman, one of the original and most inadequate designated players in MLS, has finally left Toronto.
FC Dallas acquired the veteran midfielder from TFC in a trade that sees 22 year-old forward Andrew Wiedeman move to “The Great White North.”
When de Guzman signed for the Reds in 2009 it was met with much jubilation from TFC supporters. Ironically enough, there will be many of that contingent displaying similar emotions today.
For the most part he was distinctly average. The form that saw him become 2008 Canadian player of the year and 2007-08 Deportivo de la Coruna player of the season was elusive: he often stood in the middle of the park like a dumbfounded owner of a missing, unruly terrier pup.
With the Julian de Guzman that European football enjoyed suddenly absent at TFC, it’s not outlandish to suggest that the midfielder’s chief motivation in joining the club was avarice. Nearly $2 million a year and lording it up in a Lamborghini took precedence over trying to lift himself above a 5/10 performance.
True, there have been many 5/10 players at Toronto FC over the past six years — plenty of 3s and 4s too. But from a designated player, this is unacceptable.
As I’m relatively new to MLS, the notion of signing a DP still fascinates me. There is a huge pressure on the club and the DP himself to perform. They have to get it right.
So what tactics are usually employed when looking to acquire a DP? Do they simply look to take on the most talented player they can? Do the people upstairs insist on a DP having high shirt-flog-ability? Or is vast experience preferable, in the hope that the DP will aid in the development of youngsters?
For MLS, it’s been a huge success. Since the influx of predominantly European talent, the league’s competitiveness has improved significantly. Most of the stars that move over aren’t completely washed-up: players with international aspirations regularly return to a European league to maintain fitness over the close season.
The league is now much more marketable: famous names sell shirts. Back in England, seeing someone donning an LA Galaxy shirt adorned with David Beckham’s name was not uncommon. Stories often crop up on British websites letting football fans know if Goldenballs has scored or, indeed, deliberately kicked a ball at an opposing player.
As we’ve seen with de Guzman though, not every designated player is a good fit. TFC boss Paul Mariner has already noted that the exit of the Canadian international frees up space for a DP. It seems likely he’ll use it to add experience to his youthful defence.
Given that they are being paid a significant amount more than their colleagues, a designated player is under the pressure to live up to their billing. BMO Field doesn’t need someone of unfathomable fame a la Thierry Henry and David Beckham. Just a well-respected player who will suit Mariner’s game plan and help be his voice on the pitch. Someone who is prepared to put a shift in. Someone of the same ilk as Danny Koevermans or Torsten Frings.
Defender Kevin McKenna, 32 years-old and a Canada team regular, could be just the man.
Alas, the GTA born-and-raised Julian de Guzman never seemed prepared to stick his incredibly short neck out for the team. FC Dallas are welcome to him, and let’s hope that Lamborghini overheats in the great dry south.
Daniel Rouse is a columnist and podcaster for Red Nation Online, and a short story writer. He moved from England in 2011. Follow him on Twitter.