In January, media members gathered at BMO Field to reopen a memorable chapter in Toronto FC history. Dwayne De Rosario, the subject of that chapter, sat confidently behind a table at the front of the media room, telling everyone that the ending of this chapter was sure to be better than the start. Some of the more intriguing members of the supporting cast: Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. De Rosario was likely aware of that, but for now the spotlight was on him.
As it turned out, De Rosario was afforded little time to write anything of substance. He played in 19 games, but only started four of them. He scored one goal in that time. Coming off the bench all year, he did have a couple of matches where he made an impact. But Ryan Nelsen seemed to only believe in substitutions that came incredibly late. This meant many of De Rosario's appearances came too late to be a game changer. At some points, it seemed like the only reason he came onto the field was to distract the fans.
The worry in preseason was the fact that he might not accept his role, and try to be the man on a team of superstars. That he wouldn't be willing to take a backseat to Defoe and Bradley and that it would destroy the team's chemistry. The opposite ended up taking place. De Rosario ultimately played far less of a role than most expected. Instead of griping with the media or demanding a trade he handled his new role professionally. As a result he may have earned himself a spot with the team going forward.
This is something that he apparently still covets as he does not believe that his role with the club is finished. Greg Vanney definitely seemed to rate De Rosario more than Nelsen ever did, although who knows what other options he will have next season. It's clear at this point in his career that De Rosario isn't a full game player. He can probably play a good 60 minutes, but that makes him an unnecessary risk to start a risk. So at this point coming off the bench and adding technical ability is his role.
As a player, it is painfully obvious the De Rosario has lost a step and is still adjusting to this. If he can, however, he still has good skill on the ball and could be a good attacking option on the wing, just not in the traditional sense. Often when he came on this year the team was more direct in their attack, and he was central to this fact. His former goalscoring prowess, however, seems to be fading quickly.
He is still valuable to the team but more in what he can do off the field than on. He is still a hero in Toronto, and the fans chant his name in every match. His introduction into matches has been the loudest fan reaction for at least a couple home matches this season. On top of this, he still brings a wealth of experience to the table that a number of Toronto FC's young Canadians absolutely take advantage of to better themselves and their respective careers.
Whether or not the team retains him remains to be seen, but he didn't have his option declined when Andrew Wiedeman and Jeremy Hall did, so at least he survived the first round of cuts. Keeping him around as a symbol is ludicrous in a salary cap league, so the team would have to believe that he still brings on field value to the table. Dollars wise, he's in a decent spot. At 173,000, he is more affordable than most assumed prior to the salary numbers being released.
If nothing else, De Rosario remains a positive voice within this club who truly believes that the current incarnation has hope for the future. He remains committed to making that a reality. De Rosario is still proving that he came here to win, not to retire, and that drive might keep him in Toronto's plans for next season.