Dwayne De Rosario looks to help keep soccer growing in Canada


Former Toronto FC forward Dwayne De Rosario. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

TORONTO — While Dwayne De Rosario’s playing days may be behind him, his brand continues to grow.

On the heels of being named one of Major League Soccer’s “25 Greatest,” the 42-year-old De Rosario plans to release his autobiography “DeRo My Life” in May. The former Canadian international also has developed a limited-edition DeRo 14 headphone with Canada’s Crystal Clear Audio, with part of the proceeds going to his DeRo Foundation.

Started in 2012, his foundation is a labour of love. Among other things, it helps inner city kids with after-school programs.

He also runs his own soccer school, the DeRo United Futbol Academy, which he hopes will unearth more young soccer talent, in a partnership with Toronto FC.

De Rosario is no stranger to helping build the game in North America, although previously it was as a star player in MLS. The league had 12 teams when he debuted in 2001. There were 26 last season with Austin FC set to join the fold this year.

“Being a part of that growth and development and seeing how much this game is growing has just been a tremendous opportunity and one that I definitely value as a major part of my career,” he said in an interview.

De Rosario flew the Canadian flag proudly in MLS, making 343 appearances across 13 seasons with 104 goals and 77 assists.

He won the MLS Cup four times — twice with the San Jose Earthquakes (2001, 2003) and twice with the Houston Dynamo (2006, 2007). He was named MLS Cup MVP in 2001 and 2007 and won the MLS MVP and Golden Boot in 2011 when he split playing time with Toronto, the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United.

He was selected to the MLS Best XI six times (2005-07, 2009-11). He also won the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup. He helped Toronto win its first trophy, scoring three goals en route to the 2009 Canadian Championship in the first of two stints with his hometown club.

De Rosario retired as Toronto’s career leader in goals, assists, shots, shots on goal, game-winning goals and multi-goal games. He remains a club ambassador.

“It’s a reward I’m very proud of,” he said of his current role with TFC. “It helps me to continuously develop a sport I’m passionate about.”

As for his autobiography, De Rosario hopes his story will inspire other kids.

“Hopefully it can help motivate the future generations of Canadian to be like ‘Hey you know what, if he can do it, I sure can do it as well.”’

A father of four, De Rosario sees some emerging soccer talent in his own family.

One son, 19-year-old Osaze, is a striker who has spent time with both the Toronto FC academy and the New York City FC system. Another, 16-year-old Adisa, is a goalkeeper in the TFC academy.

He also has a 23-year-old daughter, Asha, and nine-year-old son, Tinashe.

TFC fans may remember Tinashe, who at three years old arguably stole the show at his father’s retirement news conference in May 2015 at BMO Field.

The little boy with a mop of curls quickly started exploring the microphone and tape recorders in front of him, as well as checking his dad’s ear for lint before eventually asking for a snack.

De Rosario briefly returned to action in late 2018 with the indoor Mississauga MetroStars.

De Rosario has also partnered with Skylar Thomas, a fellow native of Scarborough and a former TFC draft pick, on Kick Deck — a . card-based soccer training system created by Thomas. Each card has a drill, providing an interactive way for kids to learn and hone their skills — especially in a time when the pandemic has restricted training opportunities.

As for Canada’s soccer future, De Rosario sees bright things ahead with the likes of Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Lille’s Jonathan David leading the way.

“Exciting young talent with the world at their fingertips, with so much opportunity ahead of them,” De Rosario said. “It’s testament to how much this sports has grown and is continuously growing.”

He says he can’t wait until 2026, when Canada is slated to co-host the World Cup along with the U.S. and Mexico. He believes it will further propel the game, just as U.S. hosting the 1994 World Cup set the stage for MLS.

“It’s a great time,” he said. “I’m happy to see what Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies are doing. And I’m happy to see what Atiba (Hutchinson) is continuously doing as a veteran.”

The 37-year-old Hutchinson is a Canadian soccer icon who plays alongside fellow Canadian Cyle Larin at Turkey’s Besiktas.

“It’s a proud time, as always it is, to be a Canadian soccer fan,” said De Rosario. “And I’m rooting for them come the World Cup qualifiers (which start for Canada in March.)”

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