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Julian De Guzman says NASL Great Spot for Canadian Expansion

Having finally found a club, Canada's captain is happy to see the Ottawa Fury doing their part to contribute to Canadian soccer, and hopes NASL expansion will mean even more in the near future.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

As the Canadian Men's National team found itself in transition, so did captain Julian De Guzman and a number of his other teammates: without a place to play club soccer. After his contract expired with Skoda Xanthi of the Greek SuperLeague De Guzman was without a club for several months.

During that time the 34-year-old continued to play for the national team, at first it worked out but as the months wore on De Guzman looked uncharacteristically out of place on the pitch.

Then, after the last Canadian national team camp in March, De Guzman became the last of his teammates to find a club. He finally found his home in Ottawa playing for the NASL's Fury in the nation's capital. The move, he says, is crucial for his national team future.

"I think it's mandatory to be involved with a club if you are going to be called up to the national team," De Guzman tells Waking the Red. "It's just not enough to be training on your own or just with club teams not getting games and coming into national team camps expecting to play a full 90 on the international stage."

De Guzman is happy that the club is involved with is in Canada, and close to the action as far as the national team goes. But he's also happy to be part of something that he feels is building the game in this country.

"You see a lot of guys who are part of the national team program who are part of Ottawa," explains De Guzman. "I think it's important for more teams to be on this page. They continue to represent the Maple Leaf in the NASL and I'm pretty sure we are about to see more [Canadian Clubs] in the future."

Waking The Red recently reported that Hamilton could be one of those cities, as NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson is hoping to expand to at least two Canadian cities.

De Guzman thinks that the NASL is a good place to continue to grow Canadian club soccer, as the league is already making strides of its own south of the border with the announcement of a Miami based club. He has also been impressed with the level of soccer being played on the pitch.

"It's almost like the MLS minus all of the designated players and obviously from a smaller market," said De Guzman. "But in terms of quality of football and the type of football you are getting it's quite similar to MLS."

That's a big statement coming from someone who was once a designated player in MLS with Toronto FC. But it's also good news for those in Canadian soccer who want more club teams and are looking beyond MLS.

As far as the national team goes, De Guzman is happy with where the team stands heading into a massive summer that includes a number of major tournaments for both the senior and youth national teams.

"We are where we want to be," said De Guzman. "If you are to look at the pool of players we having going into this camp coming up next month it's much better and I think that there is more quality involved than what it was when Benito first joined."

They have been demonstrating that quality as well. The team is has 3 wins 2 losses and 4 ties in the last two years, while scoring more than a goal per game.

This run of form couldn't have come at a better time either, in the next two years Canada is set to play in World Cup qualifiers, the Gold Cup, the Pan/Am Games and Olympic qualifying with the end goal of making the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Copa America Centenario.

De Guzman stressed how important of a time this is for the national team, and that they have to be ready to compete.

"These are important competitions that we need to put our country back on the map for CONCACAF and Worldwide."

At least one of those competitions will take place on home soil for the first time. Canada's final match during the Gold Cup group stage will be played at BMO Field in Toronto.

"Its huge this is a historic moment for Canadian football," explains De Guzman. It's about time that we get recognized as one of the key venues in North America for the biggest tournament in North America."

Dwayne De Rosario's retirement signals the beginning of the end for De Guzman's generation with the Canadian national team. But this summer they will have an opportunity to make one last meaningful impression on the sport in this country.