Raoul Voss, Juan Guerra Reunite In Tampa Bay

The pair played together at Florida International University and have stayed in touch since
Tampa Bay Rowdies Staff | Feb 8, 2016

When the Tampa Bay Rowdies hired Raoul Voss as their new assistant coach back in December, one man in St. Petersburg was happier than the rest.

That man was Rowdies midfielder Juan Guerra, who has known Voss for nearly a decade since they played together at Florida International University in the 2006 and 2007 college seasons.

Back then, Guerra was a young attacking midfielder from Venezuela. Voss was a center back fresh from his native Germany. Guerra had to sit out the 2006 season with an injury, while Voss quickly cemented himself as a leader, earning status as team captain in his first season. In 2007, they were finally able to play together.

Young international players living in Miami, Guerra and Voss enjoyed their time as teammates. Voss said Guerra was, “the boy all the girls loved.” Guerra said Voss, “was loved as well. He was the big German guy that got all the attention in the cafeteria.”

A pair of successive knee injuries forced Voss to hang up his cleats early and begin a career in coaching late in 2007. Guerra could immediately tell that Voss would stick with coaching.

“I could tell immediately that coaching would stick with him,” Guerra said. “He loved it, watching film and analyzing opponents for us. He knows the game. He understands it because he played it and he knows the players. That’s what makes him a great coach.”

When their path split from FIU, the two stayed in contact whenever they could, despite rarely even being on the same continent as the other. Voss began his coaching career in earnest in the United States and Germany, while Guerra played professionally in Venezuela and Spain.

“I try to keep in touch with all my teammates, but it’s very hard,” Guerra said. “You share the locker room with a lot of players, but the ones that really impact your life and make a difference, I always keep in touch with.”

Eventually, Voss returned to the United States as an assistant coach with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. After the 2014 North American Soccer League season, when the Rowdies showed interest in signing Guerra, the midfielder knew who to call.

“Juan called me before he signed with the Rowdies,” Voss said. “We spoke because he didn’t know very much about the NASL or the Rowdies so he wanted to ask me some questions about what was going on here. I told him the league was getting stronger and stronger and that St. Pete was a nice city with a great organization. I always considered Juan a good guy and a friend, so I was looking out for him even while I was in Fort Lauderdale.”

Guerra said Voss’ recommendation played a major role in his decision to move from Venezuela to the Rowdies.

Now, reunited in Tampa Bay after so many years, they’re both a little older and a little wiser. Voss is 32, Guerra is 28. The coach speaks highly of Guerra’s dedication to each and every match he plays.

“In all these years, one thing that hasn’t changed is his personality on the field,” Voss said. “His body language is very good, the players around him know that he’s serious about every game and that he has their back. The players that play against him know they’re in for a difficult game.”

Voss also credits Guerra with leadership skills that help everyone else in the locker room.

“He’s a good-hearted person that goes out of his way to help others,” Voss said. “He looks out for others and he’s always been a guy that looks to help any player that needs helps. Not just on the field, but if the locker room dynamics are off, Juan is someone that helps to fix it. He has always been like that, it hasn’t changed from 2006.”

In turn, Guerra compliments Voss’s straight-forward attitude and ability to straddle the line between the coaching staff and the players.

“What you see is what you get with Raoul,” Guerra said. “That’s what I like about him, he’s very honest and very transparent. When you’re an assistant coach, it can be tricky. The assistant has to be kind of a middleman between the players and the head coach. He does that extremely well. When it’s time to work, it's game face and we’re all working. When we have time to relax, he’ll relax and have a laugh with us.”

In addition to their coach-player relationship, both Voss and Guerra share common ground in being relatively new parents. Voss has a three-year old son, Alec, while Guerra became a father on New Year’s Eve to his son, Santiago.

Looking back at their time together, they both said it’s hard to picture the younger version of themselves as fathers, but agree that things have worked out perfectly to reunite them.

“Soccer is like life,” Guerra said. “You meet people and say goodbye to them, but you never know if you’ll see them again down the road. That’s what I love about this game, you never know who’s going to come through the door next. I love what I do and I’m thankful for everything the game has given me. We sometimes sit back and think about how we played together in college and now we both have kids. Life changes and it’s great to have people around you that you know truly care about you. We have that together here.”

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