TORONTO – With Julian de Guzman suddenly on the outside looking in on the Toronto FC starting lineup under new head coach Paul Mariner, now was as good a time as any to make a move.
The Reds did just that with the Canadian international on Friday, shipping the first Designated Player in club history to FC Dallas in large part to free up space on the salary cap and sign a player to shore up one of the worst defenses in the league.
De Guzman has struggled getting starts in recent weeks, battling fellow Designated Player Torsten Frings and a reborn Terry Dunfield in TFC’s midfield. De Guzman played 60 minutes as a starter in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Vancouver and was used as a substitute the three previous games.
“I’m the type of coach that [doesn’t] like changing the team,” Mariner said Friday afternoon on a conference call. “Terry Dunfield and Torsten Frings have done everything to a tee almost to what I’ve been asking of them. So it’s been a little difficult for Julian to get into that spot. I’ve been playing him sort of on the outside.
“I’ve seen Julian de Guzman play very well in a 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2 for Canada and I think he thrives in that sort of environment,” Mariner added. “Terry Dunfield has really done amazingly well for the club over recent weeks. So it was difficult for [de Guzman]. As a Designated Player and a local guy I’m sure he wanted to do well.”
The Reds picked up 22-year-old forward Andrew Wiedeman in the trade, but that’s not all the club is after with the deal. Now they have the extra money to spend on the open market, and they’ll likely use it to add a defender to a group that’s allowed 35 goals this season, second-most in the league.
“We’ve been saying for quite some time that we need to strengthen the defensive line and this gives the ability to do so,” Mariner said. “Dallas is taking the cap hit. This creates significant flexibility for the team moving forward.”
Mariner said negotiations are under way to bring in more than one player but did not divulge names.
“We have a few [possibilities], one in particular, but that’s as far as I can take you up to now,” he said. “It does open up the DP spot and we are in negotiations with a player that can fill that role.”
Mariner expects an announcement soon.
“Sometimes these things can take hours, sometimes they can take days, hopefully not more than a week,” he said. “It’s imminently pending.”
Wiedeman, meanwhile, is nearly guaranteed. Mariner said he was “99.9 percent certain” the youngster would be available for Saturday’s game at New England (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“He’s an intriguing player,” Mariner said. “He has lots of potential. He’s got the ability to play both as a forward and in midfield. He can play on the right. So we’ve just added some depth, added some younger legs in the team. He’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen in the modern era and I’m looking for him to really take the bull by the horns and take this opportunity.”