HARRISON, N.J. – Dwayne De Rosario "found out about 6 o'clock yesterday" that the club of his native city, of which he is the all-time leading goal scorer, Toronto FC, had dealt him to the New York Red Bulls after months of acrimony.
This morning, the playmaker arrived in the U.S. to prepare for tonight’s match against the Houston Dynamo, a club he starred at before moving to Toronto. He was probably unaware of the instant impact he would make for his new club.
The usual speculation on whether the star would make his debut for New York surrounded the run-up to kickoff. The match commenced with De Rosario on the bench, but the Canadian international would immediately influence the evening’s proceedings when he came out with the Red Bulls XI for the start of the second half.
Finding space in the center of Red Bull Arena’s pitch, De Rosario threaded a streaking Dane Richards behind the Dynamo defense within minutes of the restart. The Jamaican eluded Hunter Freeman as he feinted past the right back before scoring his first goal of the 2011 MLS season.
This type of creativity will be demanded from De Rosario throughout the season by his new head coach Hans Backe, who called the acquisition "the last piece." The Swede believed that De Rosario’s importance exceeded more than the assist.
"I think he changed the game in the second half with his final pass for the first goal and also the way he controlled our game," said Backe. "He will definitely be a key player for us."
Excitement over the latest signing, however, was tempered by a disappointing result, as the Red Bulls only could manage a draw against the Dynamo after relinquishing their lead to a Cam Weaver goal. The equalizer came after miscommunication between Rafa Marquez and his keeper Bouna Coundoul.
And that’s neglecting an abysmal first half that Backe described as "a little bit lazy, too comfortable, static" and "sloppy." The host of players missing throughout the week because of international duty and De Rosario’s sudden introduction obviously played a part in mediocre play as New York didn't seem like the impressive team that won against the Seattle Sounders at the beginning of March.
De Rosario, though, realizes this and looks forward to meshing into Backe’s squad.
"You've seen how good these guys are and it's a different style of play, but they like to move the ball around," said the excited De Rosario. "I like the rhythm they play with and I think I can fit in quite nicely, but of course you have to work in position and at the end of the day you have to do your job."
Backe sees the potential for a great partnership between De Rosario and his star striker, Thierry Henry.
"He can twist and turn, and the short field passes to help Henry," said the Red Bulls head coach. "I think that will help Thierry a lot to get that kind of creative player for him."
Dom Kinnear, the Houston Dynamo head coach, who managed De Rosario while at San Jose and Houston, gave a more comprehensive description of the threat his former player poses.
"He's a dangerous player, there’s no doubt about it," said Kinnear. "So I think with the guys they have at the back with Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez, and the way they hold the ball, it opens up places in midfield and gives him time to make the runs that he does."
The addition of De Rosario completes a Red Bulls starting XI that seemed deficient at only attacking midfield. Erik Soler and Backe had been looking for a No.10 ever since they took over the club’s management for 14 months ago. Mehdi Ballouchy, who was acquired last season, never seemed to fully take control of that role and the arrival of De Rosario is less than a surprise. The Red Bulls might finally be able to win their first MLS Cup, a trophy that might look lonely on New York's bare shelves. History, though, doesn’t soften De Rosario's ambition.
"It's nice to be in a great organization like the Red Bulls. I came here and everything has been first-class so far, and I'm looking forward to spending many years here, an hopefully first thing is making a playoffs and hopefully winning a cup."
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