Diego Gutierrez attended the Union’s final home match against the New York Red Bulls.
He was sold.
Gutierrez had been talking with the Union about a position, and after seeing the frenzied atmosphere at PPL Park he knew this was where he wanted to be. No question about it.
Gutierrez, a former Major League Soccer star, recently joined the Union’s technical staff as the Head of Scouting and Player Development. Gutierrez will enhance Philadelphia's international scouting efforts, boasting a wide array of contacts in South America and his native Colombia in particular. The 38-year-old will also assist Manager Peter Nowak with the often-complicated logistics of player acquisition and roster management, supplementing coach John Hackworth and goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian.
“The interest in this city grew as the season went on and there was a buzz in town that was fantastic,” Gutierrez told philadelphiaunion.com. “I was at the final Red Bull game and the support of the fan base for a team that was eliminated was just incredible. The passion and energy in that place was something magical.
“I thought, ‘How could I not want to be involved if the opportunity presented itself?’ Everything was aligned perfectly, and for me, who views Peter like a brother, well, it was something that in the end I couldn’t pass up. I’m excited for this opportunity and I’ve hit the ground running.”
Gutierrez spent his entire MLS playing career with the Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City), winning a total of four U.S. Open Cups, three conference titles and one MLS Cup while tallying 12 goals and 49 assists in 256 regular season appearances. His first goal as a professional came in Chicago’s 2-0 victory against D.C. United in the 1998 MLS Cup final while playing alongside, you guessed it, Nowak.
While Gutierrez won't be helping the Union on the field -- at least not as a player -- his extensive playing experience in MLS helps him understand what it takes to be successful in the league. His chemistry with Nowak also shouldn't be underestimated.
“The foundation here has been laid down, which is extremely important,” Gutierrez said. “I was so impressed after meeting everyone from the executives on down and I wanted to be put into the mix. I believe I have the skills to help, and I’m looking forward to getting started. I’ve known Peter for so many years, and I have trust in him and the entire organization.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for me and it will also be good for the club. I’m so thankful that I was the guy they wanted for this chance. I think everything just fell into place at the right time and it will only get better from here. This club has been built the right way and they compete every night. The future is so incredibly bright, and to be part of that future is exciting for me.”
Gutierrez also brings his philanthropic and humanitarian background to the club, as he supports over a half dozen organizations on a national, regional and local level, collectively helping to raise millions of dollars for worthy causes. Gutierrez functions as a national spokesperson for the Nothing But Nets malaria campaign, is a current member of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Player Advisory Council and served on the Presidential Council for Fitness and Sport, appointed by the White House, until May. For his charitable efforts, Gutierrez was named the 2007 U.S. Soccer Federation/MLS Humanitarian of the Year.
For now, he’s going to be supremely focused on his new job with the Union. He feels blessed, especially around the holidays.
“Peter and I, like I said, had been talking about this for a long time,” Gutierrez said. “The timing was right in every way and it was an opportune time for me, which I’m so thankful for. I couldn’t be happier. It’s definitely a blessing for me. I’m just thrilled beyond belief. It’s a great situation to be in, working with Peter and everyone here.”
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