It really came as no surprise to see the news that Dwayne De Rosario's time with D.C. United was coming to an end. This is typically the way it's gone for players like DeRo through the years in MLS. When the playmaker is no longer making enough plays to justify what he's being paid on a team that is struggling, he is often the first to go.
We saw it with Peter Nowak in Chicago at the end of the 2002 and we saw it with Preki in 2001. In the case of Nowak, who was 38 at the time with the Fire, he decided to call it a career even though the New England Revolution wanted him. Preki, who was about the same age as Nowak, was a key member of the Kansas City team that won MLS Cup 2000, but was traded to the Miami Fusion in 2001. He ended up back in KC in 2002, where he played another four seasons before retiring at the end of the 2005 season.
So, what's next for De Rosario, who is 35 and only three years past an MVP season? Is he still capable of the highlight-film goals that were his trademark for so many years? Does he still have enough of a burst to separate from defenders? Enough drive to want to?
First of all, if he wants to play in MLS, he's probably going to have to take a pretty big step back from what he earned in 2013. If that's not a sticking point, and De Rosario is still motivated, he could be a nice addition to a number of clubs.
You could easily see him – a Canadian international – contributing to any of the three clubs in his home country. Of course, that's if any of those clubs would want him.
Or perhaps he can be reunited with the team on which he had his most success, the Houston Dynamo. Again, that's if Dominic Kinnear thinks DeRo's still got more to give.
“This was a difficult decision to make, but it was one that we felt was best for our team to move forward into next season and beyond,” D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said in a written statement.
Those are carefully chosen words that surely resonate with any of the clubs who might be thinking of giving De Rosario a crack in 2014. Is he more like the player who scored 13 goals for D.C. in 2011, or the player who scored just three this past year? Is he better as a supporting cast member, away from being an impact player?
Is he more like Nowak, who had clearly lost several steps when he played his final season? Or, like Preki, does he have it in him to prove doubters wrong?
In all likelihood, it's going to depend on where he ends up. In the right environment, with the right players around him, no longer burdened by a heavy salary, he might be a steal.
But on the wrong team, it might be more of what was seen this past season. No matter what happens from here, De Rosario goes down as one of the league's best ever.
We saw this move coming. As for what's next, it's much less clear.