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Celtic FC signs two Americans, loans them to USL clubs

Manny Perez (left) and Andrew Gutman (right) signed with with Celtic FC on Jan. 31, 2019. (photos: USL-NCFC, Indiana University)

Tim Weah isn’t the only American that joined Scottish Premier League side Celtic FC this season.

On Thursday, the transfer deadline day for many European leagues, Celtic announced it had signed a pair of U.S. players, Manny Perez and Andrew Gutman, each to contracts of three-and-a-half years. Both players are represented by the same agency, Wasserman.

But the players won’t join Celtic right away. Both will be loaned to clubs in the American second-tier United Soccer League Championship. Perez will join North Carolina FC, while Gutman will play for Nashville SC. Perez is a product of the NCFC academy.

“It is a huge honor to sign with Celtic FC, one of the biggest clubs in football. From my time visiting Glasgow, it was clear to see the scale, the spirit and the professionalism of the club,” Perez said in a statement from Celtic. “I am happy to be a part of Celtic and during this next period I will be working hard at my loan club in the USA to continue my development. I look forward to joining up with Celtic in the near future.”

Perez, 19, is a right back and just completed his sophomore season at N.C. State University. In 29 career appearances for the Wolfpack, he tallied six goals and nine assists. Perez was ACC Freshman of the Year in 2017, and in 2018 he helped the Wolfpack reach the second round of the College Cup.

“I’m really excited for Manny,” N.C. State head coach George Kiefer said in a statement from the school. “I like the fact that if you do well in the ACC, it opens doors both domestically and also in Europe. That’s a big reason that if you’re a top player looking to play college soccer, you should play in the ACC.”

Perez went on trial with Celtic in December and declined to enter the MLS SuperDraft after his freshman and sophomore years of college. Last summer, he played with the NPSL’s Asheville City SC. Perez has also been involved with the U.S. youth national team and featured for the U-20 team during the 2018 Concacaf Championships.

“This move will be a massive step in his development and a great opportunity for him to begin his professional career,” NCFC assistant coach John Bradford said in a statement. “In our years with him in our academy, our staff knew there were big things ahead from him, even at a young age.”

Gutman, 22, came up in the Chicago Fire’s youth academy and has also trained with Rangers, Celtic’s rival. According to American Soccer Now, Rangers offered Gutman a contract, but he didn’t sign. The defender was also eligible to be signed by the Fire as a homegrown, but that never panned out either. Rangers did sign another Fire player, defender Matt Polstar.

“When I realized Celtic FC wanted to sign me permanently, I was really honored,” Gutman said. “I know Celtic is a huge name in football, they have tremendous supporters and it is a club where I believe I can flourish as a player.”

After playing in the Fire’s academy from 2012 to 2015, Gutman entered the college ranks, opting to play for the Indiana Hoosiers. There, Gutman turned into a versatile weapon, becoming the Big Ten Defender of the Year, but also leading the Hoosiers in goals scorer as a senior. Gutman started in all 90 matches he played in at Indiana and racked up 20 goals and 17 assists.

In 2018, he led Indiana to the College Cup semifinals and was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy, given to the best player in college soccer.

“It’s exciting to see a traditional power from Europe see the potential in Andrew,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said in a statement from the school. “With an opportunity to keep developing in Nashville, Andrew’s trajectory is high as he begins his professional career… I would expect the U.S. National Team will be watching Andrew closely.”

Gutman and Perez could eventually share the pitch together in Scotland, but on June 29, they’ll be enemies. Perez and NCFC will host Gutman and Nashville for a match in Cary, North Carolina.

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