For Cristián Gutiérrez, the return of MLS in Canada and first trip to his birth province of Quebec to face Montreal Impact means just one thing: business as usual.
“I left really young,” Gutiérrez said. “I just feel the pride of being a Whitecaps player and going to play over there. There's no sentimentality about it, it’s merely a job that needs to get done.”
First-year ‘Caps left back Gutiérrez has seen his workload increase since the start of the season, with four games played and two starts under his belt.
“It was very difficult coming into the Seattle match when you're already 3-0 down. I still had confidence in the process for the game, but it was it was challenging,” Gutiérrez said about his July 19 debut at the MLS is Back Tournament. “In my second game against Chicago, I came in and I had a lot of confidence. Once the game turned around for us, I was very happy and had a good chance to celebrate with my teammates. It was a very exciting moment for me. When I got the start against Kansas City, I felt very excited. I told MDS that I was ready to go.”
Being able to rely more on Gutiérrez has allowed for Marc Dos Santos to field several looks from the back and the midfield along the left flank.
“I play to defend but attacking is my favourite thing,” Gutiérrez said. “I love going to attack, I love moving forward and running back since I can do that all day. I’ve worked very hard with our fitness teams and our trainers, to make sure that I’m in perfect shape to be doing that.”
Adding speed to the defence, Gutiérrez finds teammates to pass to allowing the attack to get started. Over 80% of Gutiérrez’s passes thus far have found their intended recipient.
With all the action accompanying the MLS is Back Tournament as well as the league’s recent return to Canada, Gutiérrez is able to reflect on his time during quarantine and how he stayed fit and healthy with a companion who has been at his side since his time growing up in Santiago, Chile.
Cristián’s twin brother, Diego, is a midfielder for Valour FC of the Canadian Premier League in Winnipeg. After moving from Quebec to Chile at a young age, the two grew to love the beautiful game together and have now both reached the professional ranks in the same country no less.
“Growing up, we always played, it was a natural thing we did,” Gutiérrez said. “There’s a lot of pride in that because we fought very hard to get where we are. We grew up in poverty and we were able to buy our mother a house, so we're very proud of that. Now, being in a place where we are doing well and plan on moving our family to Canada, we are happy. There’s an element of pride in getting out of poverty and establishing yourself and just being in a good place.”
With Diego living with Cristián in Vancouver, the two were able to build off and challenge each other to stay fit and ready for action.
“We trained together so when we were doing Zoom calls for training for our clubs, we both participated," Gutiérrez said. “We went running and jogging in the mornings and during the evenings as well. We helped motivate each other and push each other. We train together all the time and part of the reason why I wanted him in Vancouver was so that I knew I’d have someone to train with.”
Since quarantine has been relaxed and Cristián’s completion of MLS’s bubble, Diego now finds himself in a similar setting as the CPL begins their second season with a bubble tournament on Prince Edward Island.
While Cristián used his time in quarantine to focus on personal growth, the Canadian-Chilean has a very different outlook when it comes to approaching his team: team before anything else.
“I am very team-oriented, I don’t go so much for individual goals," Gutiérrez said. “I am a firm believer that if a team is good, everybody is good. It's like rowing. If you just row by yourself then you're not really going to get many places but if the whole team rows, then you're going to move forward.”