By RON FANFAIR
Dwayne De Rosario is accustomed to be playing soccer at this time of the year instead of being in civvies and receiving end-of-season accolades.
Toronto F.C.’s failure to make the play-offs marks the first time that De Rosario, who signed with the club last season, has not appeared in post-season play in nine Major League Soccer (MLS) seasons.
He spent five years with the San Jose Earthquakes which won the league title in 2001 and 2003 and three seasons with the Houston Dynamos that captured back-to-back crowns in 2006 and 2007.
“It’s disappointing not to be in the play-offs,” De Rosario said at the Toronto F.C. awards party last week. “This is a whole new chapter in my life. I am, however, happy to be back in my hometown and to be part of a club that’s on the rise. We have to take some of the positive things from this season over to next year and hopefully that will take us into the play-offs.”
Toronto F.C. finished the season with 10 wins, 11 losses and nine ties and fifth in the Eastern standings.
De Rosario won the Honda Most Valuable Player, the Budweiser Golden Boot and the Daily Keno Goal of the Year awards. He scored 11 goals (a club record) and six assists in 28 games and was tied for fourth in MLS scoring.
The 30-year-old mid-field player also led Toronto F.C. to the Nutralite Canadian championship, scoring a hat-trick in the decisive game against Montreal.
“After not getting to the play-offs, that was definitely the highlight of our season,” he said. “The fan support was also unbelievable. To be back home in such a great soccer atmosphere and environment fuelled by a very professionally-run organization definitely caught my attention.”
De Rosario said he’s looking forward to playing on grass next season at BMO Field.
Last month, Toronto City council unanimously approved a proposal by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns Toronto F.C., to replace the artificial surface. MLSE will spend $3.5 million to install natural grass by May 1, 2010.
“It was a nightmare playing on that surface this year,” said De Rosario who is a cousin of Canadian 110-metre hurdler, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. “It took a toll on my knees and lower back and forced me to miss a lot of practice sessions. I like to train, work hard and push myself, but I was limited this year, Nevertheless, I was happy to contribute to the team.”
In the off-season, he will spend some quality time with his family and keep a close eye on the club’s search for a new coach.
Interim head coach Chris Cummins, who replaced John Carver last March, left the club at the end of the season and returned to England to be with his family.
“It’s good to get a coach with MLS experience who understands the league and the process to recruit players,” said the three-time Canadian Player of the Year. “We also need a coach who’s comfortable in what he’s doing, believes in the players and demands results. We have the players and the personnel. Now we have to fill a coaching void.”
De Rosario, who last represented Canada in a friendly international in Martinique in January 2008, said he still feels he can contribute to the national program. He was not selected for Canada’s away friendlies against Macedonia last Saturday and Poland yesterday.
“I have a good relationship with Stephen Hart (interim coach),” he said. “He had to give clubs two weeks notice and he anticipated we were going to make the play-offs. He already had his team in mind by the time we did not make post-season play.”