Dwayne De Rosario seems like a perfect match for his old hometown, Toronto. Well, except for the part where he's in, for him, a bit of a slump and the fact that he doesn't like the artificial turf in BMO Field.
Back in January of 2006, when the U.S. and Canada played an early-season friendly in San Diego, Dwayne DeRosario had a particularly good evening as Canada held the U.S scoreless.
Interviewing him after the match, I mentioned the new team coming into the league that year – the one from Toronto, his hometown. I asked him if he was interested in joining up with the organization and playing back in Canada.
“Yes,” he acknowledged. “But I have a contract with Houston and it’s also great to be with Dom [Kinnear] and the guys.”
De Rosario was well aware of his worth as an essential part of the midfield for the Dynamo. One thing that made him especially valuable was the chemistry and understanding he had built up over time with Brian Ching, Brian Mullan and Ricardo Clark.
Those players, and especially De Rosario himself, would go on to become the key players in the Houston Dynamo dynasty that won two championships in a row in 2006 and 2007.
But back in early 2006, knowing how much Major League Soccer has focused on the bottom line, I had a hunch that something would be worked out for De Rosario to become part of Toronto’s squad.
After all, it was almost too perfect a marketing opportunity to pass up. Here was a hometown hero, a Trono boy who made good. Toronto could even claim a part in his development, as De Rosario once played there for the Lynx. Then De Rosario had come down to the United States and spun the notion that North American soccer consisted just of the U.S. and Mexico on its head by becoming one of the very best in MLS.
I had guessed that De Rosario taking the field for Toronto would bring the soccer faithful there out in droves.
Well, it turned out that Toronto FC didn’t need De Rosario in the lineup to fill their downtown stadium. TFC was a hit with fans even as they became the only recent expansion team to never make the playoffs.
So perhaps it is the perfect time for the squad to turn to De Rosario, who has played in four MLS Cup finals and never lost one, to return to his roots and rescue his hometown club. If anyone can point the way to a playoff path, it would seem to be the midfielder whose talent seems to shine under pressure, as he is well-known for stepping up his game against quality opposition, such as the winning goal he scored against Chelsea FC in the 2006 All-Star Game.
On the other hand, it’s now three years later and De Rosario is showing signs that he is passing out of his prime. He didn’t have a particularly good season with the Dynamo this year, producing a career-low two assists.
It’s always been standard operating procedure for De Rosario to at times drift through parts of a game like he can’t quite figure out how to impact it. Then suddenly, he’ll put it together and devastate the opposition with an unexpected run and incisive pass, or a wickedly swerving free kick that scores a goal and knocks the wind out of his team’s rivals.
Lately, though, the time periods of drifting grew and De Rosario’s damaging moments didn’t.
Homecomings, also, are not always what returning players imagine. Claudio Reyna was a much-lauded signing for Red Bull New York, commanding a million dollar salary in 2007. Ultimately, however, he ended up producing little for the club and was considered a major disappointment.
“That’s not really fair,” Kasey Keller, a long time U.S. national teammate of Reyna’s, told Goal.com. “Claudio was injured during a lot of his time with New York. He tried to play anyway, to play through a lot of pain and that really made things worse.”
It can’t have helped Reyna’s fragile physical state that he had to perform on the toughened artificial turf of Giants stadium. Toronto’s turf may be newer, but a number of players, including De Rosario himself, have expressed their discontent with it.
He started off merely pointing out that a genuine grass surface would probably make lucrative sense in terms of attracting quality squads for exhibition games.
"If they get grass in there instead of an artificial surface, it would be easier to draw better players and teams from Europe to play exhibition games,” said De Rosario.
Later, he stepped up expressing his displeasure, pointing out that he and other national team players didn’t want to play at BMO field, preferring Montreal’s Saputo stadium instead.
"We would love to play in Toronto if it was grass," De Rosario told Canadian media. "We want to play in an environment that is comfortable, and right now Montreal is that venue.”
Sometimes, though, a move to a place one considers home can revitalize a career. Jaime Moreno’s worst season, an injury-riddled 2003 with New York, gave way to a triumphant return to DC United in 2004 that culminated in another championship for the Bolivian.
Moreno had been with DC for so long that it’s not hard to guess that the comfort level and the chance to aid a club he felt close to was part of his motivation to perform well.
If Toronto gets a reenergized De Rosario, and if the midfielder can adjust to the turf he has so long despised, it could be a perfect match.
“It would be nice,” said De Rosario in 2006 about a Toronto move. “I don’t know what will happen, but it would be nice if things worked out.”
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com USA