Everyone loves a happy ending. In sports, sadly, careers rarely have them—but Dwayne De Rosario may just be one of the lucky ones. Toronto FC is so far playing its part in making the story of De Rosario’s career come to a swell, prodigal-son-returns conclusion by picking the 35-year-old Scarborough native up in the MLS re-entry draft.
As of yet De Rosario has yet to sign a contract, but all indications are this is going to be a happy reunion.
The key to success will be that he understands he’s not going to be the main man this time around—no pointed cheque-signing goal celebrations, no dressing room spats. Whatever plagued his first go around in Toronto is over and must stay over.
I’m not really worried. De Rosario seems to have transitioned into a new phase in his career: the wizened veteran. It’s a role he’s currently playing with the Canadian Men’s National Team. By rights, on a youth-focused national team with a new coach and a new direction, a 35-year-old symbol of failed teams past should be out in the cold. But Benito Floro has so far made De Rosario a key part of this rebuild, as much for his experience and national importance as for his only-slightly-diminished skills. De Rosario’s in a supportive role, rather than the starring one he filled for so long.
That’s the kind of role TFC fans should hope and expect to see De Ro fill at BMO Field next season. Drawing off defenders, creating space and chances for TFC’s new focal points: newly inked DP striker Gilberto and (if you believe the rumour mill) prolific English striker Jermaine Defoe. But he’ll score the odd goal or two, of course—De Ro is still De Ro, and the scoring touch that netted him 103 MLS goals hasn’t evaporated yet.
It’s an important point: De Rosario doesn’t see this as a swansong. This isn’t Roy Halladay signing on the dotted line as he walks off into the sunset. De Ro, already old enough that most men in his position are happily retired and working on their beer gut, says he’s got a few years left in him. Don’t doubt him—he's a vegan who takes impeccable care of his body, and he may surprise you.
But this isn’t really about De Rosario being the player he was when he bagged 27 goals in 57 games for Toronto from 2009-11. He won’t be. It’s about the team getting a solid veteran piece on the field, and the fans finally getting a feel-good story.
God knows TFC supporters are the worst-suffering bunch in MLS—maybe in Canadian sports in recent years. Failed season after failed season, fired coach after fired coach. They’re the team that was born broken and can’t be fixed, or so it feels. The excitement of having De Ro come home to play for the Reds the first time was real. It was good. But it went bad, and his legacy in this town was tainted by his acrimonious departure. Another broken piece on the TFC scrapheap.
So what TFC fans need from him most this time isn’t a bucket of goals, or an MVP trophy, but reconciliation and a season that restores De Rosario’s natural status as a hero at BMO. De Rosario seems to be in a place where he can play that role. After 14 years of being the best and brightest Canadian in MLS—after four MLS Cups, two Supporters Shields, two Canadian Championship, six MLS Best XI nods a Golden Boot and an MVP award—he deserves play out his career at home and at peace with his hometown club.
All we need now, ironically enough, is a contract-signing motion.