Julian De Guzman On Opportunity With 1812 FC: ‘It’s A Blank Canvas’
Just three months after 1812 FC was announced, the ambitious prospective League1 Ontario side made waves last week when it revealed that former Ottawa Fury general manager Julian de Guzman had joined the side as both club president and co-owner. It’s the kind of acquisition that gives the feeling of a club prepared to punch above its weight, so to speak, and that sets a strong tone for the Barrie-based club’s level of ambition.
The former national team player hadn’t expected his post-playing career to take off so quickly: he says the transition between his time as a player and coaching for the Ottawa Fury came fast, with his transition to general manager for the former USL side also happening in a very short timeframe.
The folding of the Fury and the COVID-19 pandemic meant that de Guzman had time to step away from the game and collect his breath for essentially the first time since departing for Europe in 1997, but a call from 1812 FC Barrie founder Andrew Weilgus back in June brought his focus back to the game: after learning more about the project, de Guzman now finds himself diving deep into the ambitious project as both club president and co-owner.
It’s a unique position that will see him wear a different hat than his previous post-playing career positions, but he says this kind of role was something that he’d been dreaming about stretching as far back as his playing days.
For me, one of my dreams post-career is to be involved in an organization to some scale, and this is one of those things I can be very proud of. I have a reason to have an opportunity like this based on the stuff I’ve experienced playing and coaching, and really want to continue to learn how to make this work in Canada, and I think another reason too is that it’s a great time to be involved in the evolution of Canadian soccer. We’re seeing towns that are coming out, the national team that we have that has a chance for a World Cup, there’s just a lot of success stories that are happening all over the country from all levels. Even the CPL, having a league for Canadians. For me, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be in the mix and really find the strong and efficient ways to keep growing the game in the country.Julian de Guzman
The club’s ambitions to potentially join the Canadian Premier League one day are a far cry from the Fury’s stance on the domestic league, with de Guzman stating that in the more near-term future 1812 FC will involve itself as a high performance player pathway to help semi-pro players potentially move onwards the professional game in the CPL or elsewhere.
When the club was first announced, Weilgus revealed that former Toronto FC player Jeremy Hall had come aboard, along with a Canadian with ample USL experience and another as-yet-undisclosed athlete whom he teased the club likely wouldn’t be able to hold on to at the League1 Ontario level.
De Guzman has confirmed that more players and coaches have continued to reach out in the meantime, but his first step isn’t just adding players that are independently impressive: he says that the club needs to lock down a head coach so they have a better understanding of what players fit into the coach’s tactical system. Julian says the club has interviewed multiple candidates for the head coach role, with 1812 FC getting close to making a decision regarding its first-ever gaffer, who will also find himself involved in academies throughout the region.
It’s expected to be the next big announcement from 1812 FC following the acquisition of Julian de Guzman himself. After that, he says, fans will see the club appoint the right types of players who fit the organization’s philosophies and styles of play.
Of course, another expected announcement is the club’s actual license to operate within the confines of League1 Ontario: applications just opened last week, with Julian stating that the club is working with the league in order to tick all of the boxes and officially field both a men’s team in 2021, and a women’s team come 2022.
Having plied his tried professionally in the likes of La Liga, MLS, Bundesliga, and the USL before making the jump to both coaching and club management, de Guzman has seen a lot of aspects of the game before his fortieth birthday. His career could have gone in a lot of possible directions this year, but he says what made 1812 FC so appealing was the chance to put his own stamp on something he’s always been passionate about: growing the game in Canada.
I think it’s the opportunity of a blank canvas and creating your own philosophy and your own culture for a high performance team in the region. It was a big attraction. From my experience as the Fury GM, I had the opportunity to learn how it works in terms of managing a team and the things that you need at the USL level. This is something we’re happy to move forward with and help the development of the game in the Huronia Region. I got the chance to meet the Barrie Soccer Club as well, who we’re working with, and visit the facilities and coaches. I feel like there’s something that we can definitely work with here, and not just grow a high performance team, but really have a strong influence throughout the Huronia region and the soccer academies that exist. For me, I’m a big guy in terms of developing the game and helping it grow, whether I was a player playing the career I had in Europe or MLS, or being a GM or a coach for the Fury, and now this time working with the 1812 group as the president and co-owner. I think this is the same passion. It’s never changed ever since I kicked a ball, it’s just about growing the game, creating opportunities and dreams.Julian de Guzman
When de Guzman wanted his own opportunity for professional soccer, he needed to leave home as a 16-year-old in order to do so. Now, Canada is slowly but surely building a more robust system of multiple pathways where Canadian talent can develop within the country’s own borders – and with all that’s happening on the national team level, de Guzman says the pieces are finally all coming together for the game in Canada.
We’re experiencing the most important moments in the history of the existence of soccer in this country. We’re seeing Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, what they’ve done and how they’ve broken down doors for other Canadians to maybe get to one day, that’s enormous for this country. The Canadian Premier League becoming our domestic a league, that’s something that we’ve wanted for many years, and it’s about time now that this has happened. These type of things along have definitely generated solid attention and great support, and that’s exactly what we wish we had growing up in the past. It’s about time it’s finally happening, and it’s a very important time to be involved in the development of soccer in Canada.Julian de Guzman
1812 FC now finds itself backed by a strong ownership group with Atlantic City FC co-founder Andrew Weilgus and Julian de Guzman, with Canadian soccer familiar Peter Raco and Atlantic City GM David Goldstein helping with club operations as well. With the Barrie Soccer Club helping with the technical side of the club, the prospective League1 Ontario side has equipped itself with an ambitious staff roster that, so far, appears ready to make waves at the L1O level.
Launching a team during the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a bold move – though truthfully it was because of the pandemic and not in spite of it that the team is really here – and there’s a clear sense of excitement building from Canadian soccer fans eager to see what Julian de Guzman and 1812 FC Barrie can bring to the Huronia Region. In an era with a lot of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: thus far, the club appears to have made the right acquisitions to give itself a strong platform to launch from.
Read More: 1812 FC Revealed – What You Need To Know
Header Image Photo Credit: Canada Soccer