Julian de Guzman has the opportunity to make history on Tuesday night – and so does the Canadian national team.
If the 34-year-old Ottawa Fury midfielder plays on Tuesday at El Salvador (8:30 pm ET), he’ll set the all-time record for most Canadian national team appearances, with 85. In Friday night’s 1-0 win against Honduras, de Guzman made his 84th appearance for Canada, tying Paul Stalteri’s all-time record; afterwards, he was pleased to be reminded of the milestone.
“It’s golden,” de Guzman said on Friday night. “I’ve always looked up to a guy like Paul Stalteri; I played many years with him.
“To achieve something like this, with the win, means a lot. It means the world.”
De Guzman was sure to emphasize the words “with the win,” as he distinctly remembers the way that home draws (against Jamaica in 2008, and against Honduras in 2012) helped derail Canada’s last few attempts at reaching the Hexagonal round in CONCACAF.
“We’ve been waiting years for this,” he said of Friday’s result. “This win at home is very special.”
Though the final score was tight, Canada certainly earned the victory, keeping their defensive shape to neutralize the Honduran attack, while also generating a few good scoring opportunities of their own, including a scorching first-half effort from de Guzman himself, parried away valiantly by the Honduran ’keeper.
“That’s the philosophy Benito [Floro, Canada’s head coach] has in place for us,” said de Guzman. “[Friday] was a pretty great demonstration of how we were able to put that in place and we were very effective in doing it.”
With their first three points secured, de Guzman and the Canadian team are now looking ahead to Tuesday’s matchup in El Salvador. While de Guzman, who wore the captain’s armband on Friday night, can make individual history with his 85th cap, the team is also looking for some history of its own.
Canada hasn’t won a game in Central America since 2004, a stumbling block that’s helped keep them out of the Hex. But de Guzman, who’s seen plenty of action around CONCACAF in his years with the national team, feels that this group could have what it takes to finally reverse that historical trend.
“We have a lot ahead of us, and I think with this type of philosophy and mentality that we have, this is the only way to go and have ourselves make it to the Hex,” he said. “We still definitely have a lot more to prove, but let’s get the win in El Salvador and then it’s there for the taking.”
De Guzman will turn 36 years old during the Hexagonal round, which begins next November. But should Canada make it, de Guzman hopes to still be with the team, doing his part.
“For me, I still have a lot in the tank,” he said. “I definitely want to continue to play for another couple of years.”
When all is said and done, de Guzman could reach 90 or even 100 caps for Canada. But he doesn’t place much importance on holding onto that record, whatever his final tally may be. For him, the ongoing growth and success of the national team program is of much greater significance.
“These records are meant to be broken,” he said. “If I could set something that could get broken by many other players in the future, it means Canada’s doing a good job and we’re playing in the elite tournaments that we need to be.”