TORONTO — While most Toronto FC fans were focused on the play of MLS Player of the Week Joao Plata last Saturday, head coach Aron Winter says that the Reds’ improved play was due to more than one player.
Winter said that a slight adjustment in tactics actually allowed one of Canada’s own — Julian de Guzman — to stand out.
Earlier in the year, de Guzman has been lined up on the right of the midfield in an advanced role, a spot new to him during his career. But last week Winter opted to line up more defensively and the improvement in the Canadian international’s game as well as the team’s was noticeable.
“We played a little bit defensive — back point with Julian — I was not satisfied with the back [in previous games],” Winter said.
Winter uses the term “back point” to refer to a lineup that features the central midfielder playing in the slot above the center backs. Although that term is common in Dutch soccer, fans from English-speaking countries would be more likely to think of it as a holding midfielder.
De Guzman’s best seasons were spent playing a holding role for Spain’s Deportivo La Coruña. Since coming to TFC, he has at times struggled as the club has asked him to play further up field than he did in La Liga.
Based on Winter’s comments, that experiment may be over. Toronto FC look to utilize de Guzman's effectiveness when they take on FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Wednesday (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live)
“It’s ... better for Julian, it’s better for the system,” Winter said. “We’ve tried to play with him on the right half, but he’s had some difficulties. And now we’re looking at his performance and the way he played [Saturday against Houston] — he played very good."
According to Winter, de Guzman has a chance to have a greater influence on the game while Toronto has him lined up “back point.” It stands to reason, considering he’s only scored eight goals in 11 pro seasons and none since arriving at Toronto late in 2009.
“There are two sides that he plays in that position,” Winter said. “When we don’t have the ball he’s a lock on the door, and when we do have the ball he’s a man that can play soccer and define the game from the left and the right”
And as a Designated Player, de Guzman needs to be a player that defines games. Hopefully for the Reds, Winter may have finally found a way to fully utilize the Canadian international’s talents.