Canada's de Guzman has seen it all

Julian de Guzman (pictured) was MVP of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup and is on Canada's roster for the 2015 edition. (Photo courtesy Canada Soccer

HOUSTON, Texas – Things are vastly different these days for Julian de Guzman.

The team’s standout performer when Canada reached the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, de Guzman is now a wise, 34-year-old veteran.

He has been entrusted with responsibility of helping Canada’s younger generation make a smooth transition to international football at the senior level.

“From the role I had in 2007, lots have changed not just for myself but around me,” de Guzman said. “A lot of the players have come through the ranks. When I look back at 2007, we were probably able to field 10 solid players max. Today, we could field two solid teams, so the depth has increased and obviously just the composition alone you can see in training sessions.

“Each player brings a lot of qualities to the side, so it’s definitely a booster for guys like myself and especially the veterans who are there. We are helping the younger guys come along and so far it’s gone really well.”

As a 26-year-old in 2007, de Guzman scored two goals on the way to being voted the Gold Cup’s Most Valuable Player.

The Canadians have endured some trying times since then, failing to advance past the group stage in the last two Gold Cups. But the arrival in 2013 of former Real Madrid manager Benito Floro as head coach has signalled better times.

“The professionalism of the team is a lot better since Benito has been around,” de Guzman expressed. “What we have learnt on the tactical side of things, I think individually a lot of players have improved. Now it’s just a matter of us being able to gel together as a team and performing well in the games.”

Can days similar to those when Canada won the 2000 Gold Cup be far behind?

“From what I remember from the 2000 team, we won that year so it was very special and it is something that a lot of the guys in this team would like to experience and repeat that moment,” de Guzman finished. “But again, that’s 15 years ago and we have to take it step by step with the whole transition and the whole revolution that we have going in the Canadian program.”

After drawing with El Salvador (0-0) and falling to Jamaica (1-0), Canada will play its first-ever Gold Cup game on home soil Tuesday, completing Group B action against Costa Rica at BMO Field in Toronto.