It’s official. Dwayne De Rosario is back home for a second stint with Toronto FC.
Leaving after three games into the 2011 season because of a contract dispute, the four-time Canadian Player of the Year was re-united with the club in the Major League Soccer (MLS) re-entry draft after DC United declined to pick up his option.
“It’s kind of surreal to be back here with my family, friends and fans,” De Rosario, who was born in Scarborough to Guyanese immigrants, said at a press conference at BMO Field last Thursday. “When I left here, obviously a big part of me stayed here. I like the direction, focus and the vision of Toronto FC. It’s refreshing to be here at this time and I am looking forward to an exciting year.”
Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said De Rosario is integral to the club’s plans to seriously challenge for the title this season.
While winning four straight Amway Canadian championships, Toronto FC has failed to make the play-offs in its seven MLS seasons. The club’s record is 51 wins, 105 losses and 66 draws.
“We set out this off-season to rebuild this club into a winner,” Bezbatchenko said. “Of course, there were positional needs, but just as important was the heart and soul of this club and the defining player to me for that is Dwayne. It’s a proud day for me and this entire organization to welcome Dwayne back home. He’s a leader on and off the pitch. He’s a key part of our off-season rebuilding for this club. Obviously Dwayne’s record speaks for itself.”
The 35-year-old midfielder is sixth all-time in MLS scoring with 103 goals in 334 contests and fifth all-time with shots on goal (357). The 15 goals he scored in 2010 while with Toronto is a career best.
Assistant coach Jim Brennan welcomed back De Rosario to the Toronto FC fold.
“Dwayne will be working hard because that’s his nature,” said Brennan. “At 35, he’ll be playing more of a mentor role in the dressing room and I know he can help the younger players. But when he’s on the pitch, Dwayne is not shy about getting a shot and being creative. He’s a game-changer and it’s great that we’re getting him back.”
A Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute graduate, De Rosario said his dream is to win a championship for this city.
“In one way, my role has never changed and it will never change,” said De Rosario who visited Guyana for the first time last month. “My role has been to win, to help the team win and to do whatever will help us to be most successful.”
Judging by recent moves, Toronto FC is committed to contending for a championship this season.
The club signed 24-year-old Brazilian striker Gilberto nearly six weeks ago and last Monday introduced England international Jermain Defoe and American mid-fielder Michael Bradley.
“We are thrilled for our club and our fans with the opportunity to bring a global superstar like Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC,” said Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) president and chief executive officer Tim Leiweke. “We promised our fans in October that building a winning club was our top priority and we scoured the globe to find the right players to fulfil that promise. Right from the beginning of this process, Jermain Defoe was the top player on our list and we got our man.”
Defoe, 31, has been with English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspurs since 2009.
As part of the transfer agreement, Toronto FC, Tottenham and MLSE will enter into a four-year advertising rights agreement that will see Toronto FC and MLSE provide promotional and branding opportunities, experiential activities and advertising, broadcasting, social media and digital rights across all of MLSE’s properties and media platforms.
MLSE will also carry Tottenham Hotspurs official merchandise at their retail outlets and support the Tottenham Hotspurs Official Canadian Supporter’s Club.
“Jermain brings the complete package to Toronto FC,” said Bezbatchenko. “He is an accomplished scorer and I know that his skill and infectious personality will make him a popular star both in Toronto and around the league.”
Defoe has scored 19 goals in 55 appearances for England.
Bradley has been with Italian outfit, Roma, since 2012.