11 early surprise standout players for the 2021 MLS season
The early days of the 2021 Major League Soccer season have seen an unusual amount of spotlight displays from players who seemingly came out of nowhere.
A young left back who brings experience playing at the highest level in Chile, Canadian-born Cristián Gutiérrez joined Whitecaps FC via a free transfer from Colo-Colo in January 2020.
The Greenfield Park, Quebec native, who received his first Canada MNT call-up in 2021 after representing Chile at the youth level, has agreed to a contract through 2021, with club options for 2022 and 2023.
'22: Gutiérrez started seven of his 12 appearances across all competitions for the Blue and White in 2022. The Canadian international, who was part of Canada’s World Cup Qualifying roster throughout the year, also recorded an assist on Brian White’s goal against FC Dallas on May 18.
'21: In his second season with the club, Gutiérrez began the campaign in fine form by registering two assists in the first two matches of the regular season against Portland Timbers and Toronto FC. He also tallied another assist in a 2-2 draw against Los Angeles FC on June 26. The Canadian-born fullback started 17 of his 19 appearances in 2021, with 15 of those starts coming in the first 15 matches of the season before suffering a left quad strain which kept him out of action for the majority of the second half of the season. Gutiérrez finished with the most key passes amongst defenders on the team with 20 during the regular season.
'20: Gutiérrez made seven starts in 12 appearances in his first year in MLS, finishing with a two-assist outing in the season finale. Additionally, he started in the 'Caps Round of 16 matchup with Sporting KC at the MLS is Back Tournament. Per 90 minutes, Gutiérrez paced Whitecaps FC in touches and interceptions, while landing in the top 15 among MLS defenders in chances created.
'15-'19: Gutiérrez developed through the youth ranks at Colo-Colo and eventually made his professional debut with the club in 2015. He played five seasons in the Chilean Primera División, including loan stints with Unión Española in 2017, and Huachipato in 2017-18. Over that span, he played in 52 league matches, in addition to 26 appearances in the Copa Chile.
Having moved to Santiago, Chile at age three, Gutiérrez played for Chile at the 2017 CONMEBOL Sudamericano U-20, starting in each of La Rojita’s four matches. He received his first call-up to the Canada MNT in January 2021.
Gutiérrez has a twin brother, Diego, who plays for Canadian Premier League side Valour FC and has represented Canada at the youth level.