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True Patriot Love: Dwayne De Rosario Was Canada's Most Iconic Player

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The records, goals and championships come secondary, it's what Dwayne De Rosario did as an ambassador for the sport in this country that truly made him great.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

When Dwayne De Rosario came back to Toronto last year, he said he did so because he had "unfinished business" to which he wanted to attend. De Rosario never really finished that business, which is a touch surprising, because there wasn’t much that De Ro didn’t finish in his career.

He finished 104 chances in Major League Soccer for the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls and DC United, and 22 more for the Canadian national team. He finished first in scoring in both Toronto FC and Canadian National Team history. His team finished as Major League Soccer Champions four times. The list only goes on.

Yesterday, De Rosario announced that he is finishing his playing career. He will do so as one of the greatest soccer players not only this country, but this continent, has ever witnessed.

At halftime of yesterday’s home opener, in what almost seemed like an afterthought, it was announced that MLSE had done with De Rosario what it seems to do with all of its most respected players: hire them. Unfortunately, they missed the memo on Carl Robinson.

De Rosario stood at the halfway line waving his arms to a modest applause. It was hardly the sending out that he deserved, especially considering what he has meant to not only the league but also this team and the city of Toronto.

Considering all of the tributes and praise directed at Landon Donovan, it was disappointing to see a player who had a similar impact in Major League Soccer history go out with far less glory.

Really, there wasn’t that big of a difference between what Donovan and De Rosario did for the league. Donovan scored a few more goals, and ended up having a short career in Europe as well.

The main difference, however, was that De Rosario was Canadian. As a result he never became a household name outside of the continent like Donovan did. He was never given a chance to showcase his talents in Europe, even if he was certainly talented enough.

If De Rosario was born in another country he likely would have thrived in some of the best soccer leagues in the World. If De Ro wasn't Canadian he probably would have had a bigger impact on the international stage, likely even made a World Cup.

But De Ro fully embraced his citizenship, and was never ashamed of his roots. In fact he wore the Canadian flag proudly wherever he played: he never forgot where he came from and never let anyone else forget either.

In this De Ro was a rarity in Canadian soccer. So many others of his skill and ability have taken the easy route and chosen to go play for another country where soccer is a bigger priority. Surely the United States would have taken him, and he would have been a staple in their attack for years.

The newly renovated BMO Field, the stadium where De Rosario waved his final goodbyes as a player, will likely be remembered as the house that Tim Leiweke built. But that doesn’t mean De Rosario didn’t play an important part in its construction.

How? De Rosario has his fingerprints on pretty much everything to do with the success of Toronto soccer. He was the best player the local team ever had in terms of what he produce on the field, and was a fan favourite both on and off the pitch. 

Last season, even when his roll under Ryan Nelsen became increasingly nonexistent, there was a thunderous applause every time he took to the field. Often, when Toronto’s former coach neglected to bring on the Canadian star fans would chant "we want De Ro".

When, under Greg Vanney, De Rosario finally found his way back into the team consistently towards the end of the season, he was one of the few players that contributed. His goal against Chicago Fire with 7 games to go in the season kept Toronto’s playoff hopes alive, even if they were dashed in the end.

It was the same for Canada, whom De Rosario left in top form. He scored a goal in each of his final two matches for the national team, both against Iceland. His total of 22 is sure to last for a long time, as the closest active player is Tosaint Ricketts who has 8 goals.

As the final whistle sounds on Dwayne De Rosario’s career, he will leave the game as the most iconic Canadian soccer player ever. For the first time, Canadian kids coast to coast had a player whose footsteps they could follow.

In a statement made on Instagram after retiring yesterday, Dwayne De Rosario said that his soccer career was proof that dreams come true. But his career not only made his own dreams and ambitions a reality, it set the stage for many more Canadians to realize dreams of their own.