By RON FANFAIR
Dwayne DeRosario knows how much it means to young kids to have an autograph of their favourite sports star. Growing up, he cherished the piece of paper that professional wrestler/actor Mister T signed for him.
“That was the only autograph I had and it meant a lot to me,” recalled DeRosario at a youth community event last week in the city.
Major League Soccer (MLS) teamed up with Home Depot, a major supporter of league programs; the Boys & Girls Club of Canada and local volunteers to refurbish the Toronto Kiwanis club at St. Mary’s Catholic School in downtown Toronto.
DeRosario and other MLS players, including Edson Buddle of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad who, at 42, is the oldest active MLS player, spent about six hours building a new front desk, a computer lab, coat racks, shelves, cabinets and desks and painting a wall mural inspired by Boys and Girls club members.
“It’s nice to give back to the community, especially my community here in Toronto and to interact with kids, some of whom are our loyal supporters,” said the Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute graduate.
While the married father of three was delighted to be involved in several community events leading up to last Sunday night’s MLS Cup match, he said he would have also relished the opportunity to lead Toronto FC on the field in the championship game.
Toronto FC finished fifth in the eight-team Eastern Conference, missing the play-offs for the fourth year since entering the league in 2007.
“Definitely, I would much prefer to be playing,” he said.
For the second straight year, Toronto FC began the month of November without a coach. Interim coach Chris Cummins left the club at the end of last season and was replaced a year ago by Preki who, along with manager Mo Johnston, were fired last September.
Two weeks ago, Toronto FC hired former German soccer star Jurgen Klinsmann and his company, Soccer Solutions, in an advisory capacity as the club attempts to reorganize its infrastructure and cultivate a winning culture.
“We need some stability,” DeRosario said. “Hopefully, Jurgen will help us focus on the areas we need to improve and that in turn will give us a good push towards the play-offs next year.”
DeRosario was last week named to the MLS Best XI, the fifth time and the second successive year in his 10-year MLS career that he has been given the prestigious honour. He finished the season as his club’s top goal scorer with a career-high 15 goals.
The 32-year-old three-time Canadian Player of the Year was the league’s third leading goal scorer behind Wondolowski (18) and Buddle with 17.
“Dwayne has had an outstanding season and we are very happy that his contribution to Toronto FC has been recognized,” said the club’s interim soccer director, Earl Cochrane. “As our captain, Dwayne led by example on the pitch and this selection to the Best XI is a well deserved recognition for his performances.”
DeRosario assumed the captaincy last April after Jim Brennan retired. He was voted Player of the Week after registering a goal and an assist in his team’s 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on April 25 at BMO Field. He was also named to this season MLS All-Star First XI and scored a goal in the side’s 5-2 loss to English club Manchester United at Reliant stadium in Houston. It was the Canadian’s fifth consecutive All-Star selection.
Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was the only Caribbean player named to the MLS Best XI that comprised a goalie, three defenders, five midfielders and two strikers. He allowed just 26 goals in 29 regular-season games this season for a save percentage of 0.76.
The Jamaica national team vice-captain attracted interest from Toronto FC before signing with the Galaxy two years ago. The 33-year-old has made 84 appearances for his country since 1998.
Colorado defeated FC Dallas 2-1 in last Sunday MLS Cup contest.