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The erasure of Diego Gutierrez

Photo: Earl Gardner

On June 26, Philadelphia Union announced their big summer signing, Bakary Soumare, to much fanfare.

Five days later, the club fired scouting director Diego Gutierrez, the man most responsible for signing Soumare and every other significant Union international.

That says a lot about the Union’s view of Gutierrez, the reasons for whose firing the Union have steadfastly declined to detail.

So too does the fact that, with Friday’s trade of Josue Martinez to New York, the Union have continued erasing any sign Gutierrez was ever at the club.

You could dust this team for fingerprints, and you’d find few remaining signs of his presence.

Lio Pajoy: Gone.

Jorge Perlaza: Gone.

Gabriel Gomez, Porfirio Lopez, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Josue Martinez: Gone, gone, gone, gone.

Faryd Mondragon: Gone, though not forgotten.

Center back Carlos Valdes remains but could leave for Europe after establishing himself as a starter with the Colombian national team. Soumare played only one game due to injury, and the Union have two other starting quality center backs besides those two, so both could be expendable. Roger Torres is still here, but his role with the club looks tenuous after a lost season.

Pretty soon, you won’t even know Gutierrez was ever here, so concerted has been the effort to rid the club of the players he signed.

The lingering question: Did Nowak and Gutierrez profit off transfers?

Not all Gutierrez’s scouting finds were failures. Valdes is an unqualified success. Mondragon did all that was asked and should have been kept another year. Torres has shown enough signs of brilliance that, even if he never makes it as a regular starter, you can’t fault his signing. And Soumare’s talent can’t be denied, though the Union paid him about the equivalent of Sebastien Le Toux’s 2012 salary to rehab from injury.

But Gutierrez’s other signings were such a scattered mess that it’s impossible to completely dismiss claims that Peter Nowak, Gutierrez’s former teammate with Chicago, tried to profit from player transactions, as the Union questioned in legal papers and former Union defender Michael Orozco Fiscal told Fox Soccer.

So many of the signings simply did not fit.

  • Gomez played a position at which the Union were stacked.
  • Pajoy was signed to replace Le Toux despite scoring more than three goals in just one of the prior four seasons.
  • The Union needed a left back, but Lopez had such a different skill set from the attacking wingback Nowak needed that he lasted only a month as a starter.
  • Trading Danny Mwanga for Jorge Perlaza was so misguided that the Union cut Perlaza before season’s end.

Before becoming the Union scouting director, Gutierrez worked as an agent by launching his own company, Global Pro. In that role, he brought Torres to the Union and reportedly served as Soumare’s agent when Soumare left MLS for Boulogne in France.

There is no indication Gutierrez profited as an agent would when the Union signed his scouting finds. If he did, he would not be the first. Conflicts of interest for agents representing both player and team are a longstanding problem that has been highlighted by FIFPro, the international soccer players union.

So far, there has been no incontrovertible proof of wrongdoing in the Union’s signings, and frankly, there probably never will be. Nowak’s lawsuit has gone to arbitration, and with the Union going nuclear by raising the question of criminal wrongdoing, details of any settlement may never see the light of day. If the claims are true, it raises questions of how the Union let it happen and whether Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz was asleep at the wheel.

At the very least, Gutierrez was a casualty of Nowak’s firing or a philosophical division with Hackworth over how a team should be run.

At the very most, Hackworth fired Gutierrez because Hackworth wanted to eliminate the stench wafting out of the Union’s player personnel offices.

Hackworth wanted to get back to playing soccer, and credit to him for it. The days of money and power being the primary topic of Union discussion are fading away. So too are the fingerprints that Gutierrez left on the Union.

15 Comments

  1. The text above implies that Lopez has a skillset. Please correct the error.

  2. So glad the club is making intelligent decisions now. There was nothing more frustrating than watching all our best players get traded. Welcome back Le Toux!!

    • I share your frustration, but I haven’t seen an ‘intelligent’ FO decision yet. Bringing back le Toux is good for the team and good for PR, but was sort of obvious and, while we will never know how much allocation money was spent, I suspect we overpaid. And Parke fell into our lap. So at least the FO has gone from self-destruct mode to competent mode. But the FO has a ways to go before they look as intelligent as some of the other MLS personnel guys (cf. Houston).

  3. FIFA has not scrapped its agents regulations; only proposed to do so. I thought it odd that he was still listed on the FIFA website as a licensed agent while he held his position with the Union. Perhaps it was just an oversight at USSF not notifying FIFA if he had given up his license.

    • It looks like I may have conflated separate things (licensing vs. regulation) when drawing upon research I did back in July. I’ve updated the line about agent regulation, at least until I have time to recheck that. Thanks for pointing this out.
      -
      And yes, it was a PSP reader who first raised the issue of this potential conflict of interest. Was it you? This post has been waiting to be written for … a while now.

  4. Ed Farnsworth says:

    From FIFA’s Player Agent’s Regulations (2008, the most recently available):

    “Players’ agents shall avoid all confl icts of interest in the course of their activity. A players’ agent may only represent the interests of one party per transaction. In particular, a players’ agent is forbidden from having a representation contract, a cooperation agreement or shared interests with one of the other parties or with one of the other parties’ players’ agents involved in the player’s transfer or in the completion of the employment contract.”

    Links and more at http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/footballgovernance/playeragents/regulation.html which notes “Players’ agents have not been licensed by FIFA since 2001. Players’ agents are licensed directly by each association.”

  5. Honestly, this alone would suggest to me that the Union would be better off selling Soumare and Valdes. This is something I would not want MLS or other authorities to investigate. Definitely sounds like there were some federal laws violated at some point in Nowak’s player acquisitions.

    • Yea I’m sure FIFA would be shocked, SHOCKED at this level of corruption. I am sure this hardly even registers by their standards.

    • I’m sure MLS has already done its due diligence. As for other authorities, FIFA is so full of corruption that, even in the worst case scenario, this would be like a fly on an elephant. Regardless, the players are at no fault. If anything, some (Orozco Fiscal, for example) are probably victims more than anything.

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  8. Lissa Humphrey says:

    I think this article is complete bull. You have no idea what you are talking about. Le Toux and Mwanga had good runs but their time had come. Le Toux went down when a defender poked him and Mwanga had the work ethic of a 5 year old. And since the departure of Nowak, Gutierrez, and Eskandrian, the club has gone to complete shit. And the corruption? It is non existent. If you want to see corruption, take a look at Chivas USA and some of the other clubs in the MLS, and stop criticizing your own team for getting rid of players who’s careers were already on downwards spirals. Get ober yourselves and look at the facts. And shame on the author for not getting all the facts. Gutierrez and Eskandrian bith quit after Nowak’s dismissal. Sakiewicz asked them to stay, however they declinde due to personal issues with Hackworth. Who later gave an interview saying Nowak, Gutierrez, and Eskandrian were all dismissed. If you’re going to accuse anyone of being corrupt, it should be Hackworth. Who by the way, is not our knight in shining armor nor is he the nice guy everyone thinks he is. Just look at the numbers and stats for this season. #Sackhackandsak

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