Ottawa, San Antonio Raise NASL Standard with de Guzman, Cummings

IMAGE, OTTAWA FURY FC

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Only one week remains until the start of the 2015 NASL campaign, but teams are still making splashy signings.

The Ottawa Fury and San Antonio each announced major roster additions on Friday that are sure to make opponents take notice. Ottawa nabbed longtime Canadian international Julian de Guzman while San Antonio inked a deal with Jamaican international Omar Cummings.

In Cummings, the Scorpions get a player with just under 200 MLS appearances – primarily with the Colorado Rapids – and a forward who is considered one of the most dangerous in the league. In his heyday, Cummings, 32, was known for his deadly speed, something that was an integral presence in Scorpions Head Coach Alen Marcina’s championship squad last year. No doubt the Scorpions are hoping that Cummings can bring that infamous pace to Toyota Field.

Ottawa’s signing of de Guzman is quite the coup for such a young professional team, and it just so happens to fill a glaring hole in the roster. Marc Dos Santos’s squad showed promise from a tactical standpoint but was also full of young undeveloped talent. At 34, de Guzman brings a wealth of experience in both North America and Europe. In 2005, he was the first Canadian player to play in La Liga when he joined Deportivo La Coruna. After several seasons in Spain, he returned to Canada to play for Toronto FC and became the first Canadian designated player in MLS history. His leadership and example could be of tremendous benefit to the young Canadians on Ottawa’s roster who have yet to receive a national team call up.

MLS veterans choosing to join the NASL isn’t much of a surprise anymore. Recently, well regarded MLS midfielder Adam Moffat signed up with the New York Cosmos earlier in the preseason. But the fact that Cummings and de Guzman joined clubs other than the Cosmos can be seen as a positive sign for the health of the NASL. Neither Ottawa or San Antonio operate on the same level as New York in terms of player salaries. Rather than finances playing a part, it appears that proximity to home and playing time were the biggest factors in each player’s decision. Both players are undeniably solid additions to their respective clubs and they are also significant additions to the entire NASL talent pool.

“In the end he wanted to be with a Canadian team. We were impressed with his passion for Canada and how concerned he is about giving back,” Dos Santos told the Ottawa Citizen. “We knew we would always lose if it was down to the finances. It is important that people know Julian is coming here because this is where he wants to be.”

Similarly, when his signing was announced, Cummings remarked that San Antonio’s proximity to his family in Houston was a big plus.

Both players are likely to see much more time on the field in the NASL than they would have if they had signed with MLS. They both trained with MLS teams earlier in the year, Cummings with Portland and de Guzman with Columbus. Consistent minutes are a priority for the two because of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. After a few injury plagued seasons at Houston Dynamo, Cummings is hoping to work his way up the depth chart for Jamaica in time for the tournament. As the current captain of the Canadian national team, de Guzman is a lock for the Gold Cup squad, but he believes that getting quality minutes in the NASL is the best way to prepare. He has been out of contract for several months since leaving Greek first division side Skoda Xanthi.

With the start of the season looming, Cummings and de Guzman will need to overcome a steep learning curve if they want to contribute right away. Due to international duty, de Guzman won’t even be able to join his new teammates until a few days before they open the season in Carolina.

Fans in Ottawa and San Antonio shouldn’t expect too much from their new players just yet, but they should absolutely be encouraged about their team’s 2015 championship prospects.