Gutman kicks game back into gear

Soccer pro from Hinsdale resumes MLS season and his rising career trajectory

The pro sports world is emerging from its COVID-19 quarantine, and that's good news for Hinsdale's Andrew Gutman. In his second year with the Major League Soccer team FC Cincinnati, the 23-year-old defender got back to competition this month with the MLS Is Back Tournament - sans fans - in the "bubble" of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. He opened up to The Hinsdalean in this Q&A via email about his journey over the last several months.

What went through your mind in March upon learning your season was being shut down?

"We were actually at training getting ready for our match against DC United when the GM came onto the field and told us the season has been suspended until further notice. I was upset because I was feeling good and training really well. I felt that our team was growing and was going to have a good season. I couldn't believe this was happening - a pandemic is unheard of - and I never thought something like this would happen during my life. But I had to deal with it like everyone else and do my part to make this virus go away."

You returned to Hinsdale for an extended visit. How was it being home?

"I came back for about a month. It was really nice to be back home and around family. I live by myself in Cincinnati and do not go out much, because I am focusing on training and recovering every day. I was able to spend some quality time with my extended family and just relax a bit. I did not see many friends because of quarantine, and I did not want to contract the virus. The club was pretty strict with us on quarantining because they didn't know when we would come back, and when we did, they did not want anyone to miss time because of the virus."

How did you keep in shape?

"I was able to work on the weaker parts of my game more and study previous games in order to improve my positioning in games. Our strength coach sent us programs to do during the shutdown to stay fit and would check in on us to make sure we were doing the programs and staying in shape. We have to record our weight and diet to ensure we weren't getting out of shape."

What was your reaction to the news of the MLS Is Back Tournament?

"I felt excited but also nervous. The bubble in theory is a good idea but anything can happen with the virus, so the thought of being around 2,000 people in a small area scared me a bit. But once I arrived down here I noticed how well it was set up for safety protocols and the lack of contact we have with other teams helped ease my mind. After a week I started to forget about my fears and was just enjoying playing again and getting my competitive spirit back."

Amidst those preparations, the issue of racial injustice erupted in our society. What has that stirred in you and in the larger MLS community?

"For me, it has impacted me more than I thought. The league has had a great response to it and has taken action, which is great to see. People have a right to be heard and I'm happy to see the MLS using their platform to allow players to speak out. I've had numerous conversations with my teammates and they have told me stories about how racial inequality has affected their lives. After these conversations I've become more aware of what has been going on in this country. I fully support my teammates in this cause and I hope that positive change comes from it."

How is life in the bubble?

"It's not bad. We all have our own rooms, which is nice. On our floor we having a gaming room and a ping-pong table to help pass the time. Outside by the pool are some giant games like bags, life-size chess, soccer pool and others. We have been able to play golf at the course on the resort and go to a putt-putt course as well. It gets repetitive being here so long but it could be worse. We can also order in food and other items if we choose. The only down side is we can't leave the property."

Is it good to be playing again?

"It has been great to be back playing. This is my passion and to be able to have this as a job makes it all the better. Like I said before, I felt like I have grown and improved a lot over the past year and this tournament has allowed me to show and express myself. I'm excited for the rest of the season because I really like where we are as a team and I think we have a good chance to make the playoffs and do something special this year."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean