Justin Guterding Atlas Debut
Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi.

‘He’s a Utility Knife’: Justin Guterding’s Role in Atlas Debut

By Lauren Merola

Jul 7, 2023

Justin Guterding’s first game as an Atlas Bull has been a long time coming.

After February’s 2023 Championship Series, Guterding took his free-agency fate into his own hands and reached out to Atlas coach Mike Pressler and offensive coordinator Steven Brooks. The Atlas coaches considered signing the 28-year-old midfielder, but decided to wait on it for a few weeks while they assessed other free agents. On March 24, Guterding officially joined Atlas on a one-year contract.

“He had other opportunities, but he wanted to join our team,” Pressler said in May. “He was adamant about that… Him wanting to be here and a part of this program, among other things, won me over. That’s the reason we signed Justin Guterding.”

Among those other things are Guterding’s experience and, of course, skill.

The veteran lefty can slot into the attack or midfield, work the two-man game and create his own shots. Last season with the Whipsnakes, he posted 16 points (6G, 10A) in seven games.

Guterding’s career-high in points came in 2019. In 10 games with Chrome, he amassed 35 points (19G, 1T, 14A) en route to his second All-Star selection. He struggled to produce as high of numbers in years since, and will now look to regain his footing on his third team in as many years. 

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to join this team for so many reasons,” Guterding said in a statement on April 6. “The coaching staff is complete with men I have looked up to for years and have the utmost respect for. We have a combination of young studs, veteran leaders and guys who are ready to take that next step. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and promise to my teammates, coaches and family, and the Bulls fans, to take full advantage of it.”

“He hasn’t been too comfortable in a system,” Brooks said. “So I think he's hungrier than he has been. When you play with a chip on your shoulder, you bring a different intensity. I think that’s what he’s looking to do.”

It was an easy pick up for Atlas, said Brooks, who will now work to seamlessly transition Guterding into Atlas’ system, where he will be a complementary role player. Pressler said Atlas has guys who “carry the load,” but Guterding will be a contributor on the left side to dodge, create lanes or space and occupy defenders when necessary.

“He’s a slick lefty. You have to stay on him. He’s very crafty,” Brooks said. “He can hit you with a pump fake, then he can hit you with a shot and he always makes the defender have to guess because he layers moves on top of moves.

“He’s a utility knife.”

Guterding’s skills range from on-field to off-field, and to secure a spot in the lineup after Week 4, he doesn’t have to pad the stat line, but he is expected to play his role well and play hard, mistake-less lacrosse, all while guiding the young Bulls under him. A major draw of adding Guterding to the roster was to “teach these younger guys the way,” Brooks said. On Atlas’ offense, the only other veteran is Eric Law, who’s 32, on a line with Chris Gray (23), Xander Dickson (24) and Jeff Teat (26).

Brooks, who played professionally from 2008 until 2019, his final season which he spent on Atlas, said he would take younger players under his wing in his veteran playing years. “See them make a mistake? Pull them aside and help advise them. That’s what we’re going to ask Justin to do: bring some more leadership on the offensive side.”

Guterding debuts in the 2023 season against the Cannons on Saturday at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN+. 

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