Cristián Gutiérrez thankful for special moments, challenges faced in 2022

VANvPOR-154 (1)

2022 had its bright moments and its low moments for Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Cristián Gutiérrez.

Coming into his third season with the 'Caps, the 25-year-old was primed to continue working his left-footed magic at the wingback position and helping the team achieve history.

He began the season starting two of the first three matches, helping the Blue and White keep a clean sheet against at-the-time defending MLS Cup champions New York City FC.

What followed right after was a moment Gutiérrez will treasure for the rest of his life.

The defender, who's originally Chilean but was born in Montréal, Québec, was called up to Canada's men's national team for the final phase of FIFA World Cup Qualifying and got to experience an all-time moment in Canadian soccer, as he was on the bench for the team's World Cup clinching win over Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario.

"It was an incredible moment," said Gutiérrez with a gleaming smile over his face, "A unique sensation because not everyone gets to qualify for a World Cup, not everyone gets to be part of the process to qualify."

Following the celebrations, Gutiérrez told Canada's men's national team head coach John Herdman how thankful he was to have been a part of the journey with the brotherhood that's been created within the group.

"I'm really grateful for those moments, we finished first in the table, ahead of the United States and Mexico, and qualifying was an incomparable feeling."

Gutiérrez then returned to the 'Caps, hoping to find a rhythm to his season.

On May 18, Gutiérrez started as a wingback for the team in a key Western Conference clash against FC Dallas at BC Place.

The 'Caps fell behind in the first half but found a way back into the match thanks to some magic from the Canadian.

After receiving the ball in space on the wing, Gutiérrez whipped in a cross into the box for Brian White to head in the equalizer for the 'Caps, giving him his first assist of the season.

"I knew Brian was in the box, I think Lucas [Cavallini] was in there as well, and as soon as I saw them I put the cross in towards them, it got to Brian and he scored. For me, anytime I can assist, it's the best," explained Gutiérrez.

It was special for Gutiérrez to have the moment come at BC Place, in front of the home fans, after his first two years with the club saw him living in Orlando, Portland, and Salt Lake.

In addition, the defender also got to accomplish his goal of achieving history with the club, in front of the BC Place faithful as the 'Caps beat Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship Final on July 26.

Despite not playing in the final, Gutiérrez played a key role in the Blue and White's run to the final as he slotted home the deciding penalty-kick against Cavalry FC in the shootout of the quarter-final.

And then to win the final at home, pure joy flowed through Gutiérrez's veins in the moment.

"This past year was a complete year at home, it shows what we can do when we're at home, we've gotten some great triumphs, we're always strong at home," said Gutiérrez.

"Even though we were playing as the home team in Salt Lake, we weren't playing at home. It's better to be at BC Place, at home."

Despite the special moments, the defender did face some challenges during the season as he went through multiple injuries during the latter stages of the season, limiting his minutes.

However, Gutiérrez took things in a positive mindset, saying he's thankful for the injury challenges he's faced as he knows he'll always come back stronger and help make him a better person as he takes things day by day.

"I've always been strong-minded, these things happen in life, but after all of that, you always have to come back stronger than before."

The Canadian is hoping to make the most in 2023, as the 'Caps compete in a total of four competitions.

"For me personally, at the start, [the season] was really good, I was with the Canadian National team, played games here, played some really good games here, got some assists and then after getting injured, I went through a tough go and I hope next year I can have a better year and a better end to the year than last season."