Guevara has new attitude

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Amado Guevara has been called a lot of things during his tumultuous soccer career.

A "pussycat" never has been one of them. Until yesterday.

Guevara, signed last week by Toronto FC, has been regarded as everything from a national treasure to a spoiled brat and charlatan who can turn from team saviour to team cancer.

He has worn the national team colours of Honduras more often than any other player.

He has played all over the world, from Spain to Mexico and four remarkable seasons in New York where he won the MLS MVP award in 2004.

On the other hand he has a reputation for clashing with coaches while alienating teammates, and Toronto FC will be his fourth team in the past three seasons.

But, yesterday, when he was introduced at the club's media day, it was all smiles. FC coach John Carver doesn't see Guevara's temper being a challenge.

"Not really because I've had some awkward characters. Craig Bellamy is not the easiest to work with but he's a fantastic lad. If players can play football and do their business on the pitch for me I'll find a way to manage them. And, so far, he has been like a little pussycat."

But he didn't earn that nickname "El Lobo" because people thought he was cute and cuddly. Once, after being substituted, he left the field and went to sit with his wife in the stands and New York general manager Alexi Lalas got so frustrated with his antics he dealt him to Chivas.

In Los Angeles he received a red card, while on the bench, for shoving an assistant referee. Shortly afterward he walked out on the team, or was pushed by coach Preki. What actually happened depends on who is telling the story.

And, when Toronto signed him, Guevara was serving a 30-day suspension in the Central American Football League after an altercation with Mario Moncada, the league's top referee.

"If something happens, I'll deal with it. But he has been fantastic. He has been staying at the same hotel as me and we've had many conversations," Carver said yesterday.

"Sometimes things get blown out of proportion and I think this might be the case with him."

Besides, a team that won six games last year while being shut out 15 times can't be picky.

Guevara is a proven offensive conduit -- even four seasons removed from his MVP season.

"I think he's still there. You saw signs (in a 3-2 win in L.A.)," Carver said, "we actually kept possession of the ball and gave our players time to get up in support. We haven't had that. He's going to be a huge player for us."

If Guevara is even half the player he was in New York, it would give TFC a balanced attack with Laurent Robert on the other side and Maurice Edu in the centre.

The question remains, though, whether he will implode before he explodes.

The 31-year-old midfielder vows his troubles with authority will not resurface here. He wore a perpetual grin, he mugged for cameras, signed an autograph and patiently answered questions through a Spanish interpreter.

"The history can be the history but you will have one full season to judge what Amado Guevara is, on the field, off the field. One thing I want to make clear is that I work within the team. I want to become a winner and this whole team is working to become a winner. Together."

Only time can change the ambivalence he engenders. Only time will prove if this team and Guevara can grow up together.

"I believe I have mellowed through the years. I think I've learned to control my emotions but at the same time not change my personality. I'm better on the field, controlling my feelings and reactions."

So, who shows up at tomorrow's home opener: The pussycat, or El Lobo?

"It depends what the team needs from me. I'll be aggressive on the field and," he said, a coy grin tugging at his lip, "anyone who knows me off the field knows I'm already a fast wolf."

Not sure what that meant. But it might not have had anything to do with a soccer ball.


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