Dwayne De Rosario thought long and hard about an important decision. In the end, though, his choice was easy.
Toronto’s star midfielder accepted the captain’s armband Thursday, one day after the club’s first and only captain Jim Brennan retired and joined the team’s front office as assistant to director of soccer Mo Johnston.
Though De Rosario has had stints as captain with the Houston Dynamo and the Canadian national team, this will be his first run in that role with Toronto.
At first, De Rosario’s choice seems like a no-brainer. After all, he was the team’s leading scorer last season and its most dangerous attacking player. And it didn’t hurt either that he’s a Toronto guy. But De Rosario brings a lot to the table, possibly more than Brennan, especially on the field.
While Brennan was a steady presence in the back, De Rosario may have a greater impact on the pitch. As an attacking midfielder, he covers more of the field and has a better view of everything, while also being the link between the defense and the strikers. That could prove valuable for a team that has had trouble controlling the midfield and servicing its forwards.
Could it also signal a shift in the team’s focus towards offense over defense? Time will tell. But what’s certain is he’ll rely on the help of fellow midfielder and Canadian international Julian de Guzman. The two should form a good complement with De Rosario vocally taking charge on the field and de Guzman setting an example with his play.
However, what’s most admirable about De Rosario is his commitment to the team. Last summer, he opted to stay with the club to help it earn its first playoff berth, instead of joining Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It was a difficult decision for the patriotic De Rosario, but he knew his priorities and set a positive example for his teammates.
Though he declined Canada, he has often made himself available for matches ranging from World Cup qualifiers to meaningless friendlies and will continue to do so.
He also showed he’s not afraid to speak out when he criticized former Canada coach Dale Mitchell during the failed World Cup qualifying campaign in late 2008. Although Mitchell opted not to call De Rosario up in the aftermath, current coach Stephen Hart has welcomed him back into the fold.
That trait could raise alarm bells for some, but it shows he’s not afraid to raise players’ concerns to the coaching staff and management.
Last season, De Rosario tried to do too much times, especially when the team was down late. It wasn’t uncommon to see him taking shots from 30 yards out or trying to dribble through four players to get to the goal.
He’ll have to tone that down and work more to get everyone organized and playing as a unit. Last season, the club often played like a collection of individuals rather than a cohesive team, partly because of the revolving door of players and a lack of consistency in the lineup.
Despite that, there’s no mistaking his passion for the game and the city. He has strong local roots and has been involved in various charitable endeavors from the moment he arrived in Toronto. So, with the retirements of Brennan and Danny Dichio, De Rosario officially becomes the club’s poster boy.
He’s already on much of the team’s marketing communications collateral, but the spotlight is now squarely on him. Toronto is now “his” team.
Last season was the first time in his MLS career he did not make the playoffs. That was unfortunate. The fact he couldn’t take his hometown team to its first playoff berth? A bitter disappointment.
Now as captain, he has the chance to instill that hunger throughout the entire locker room and take the team to a place it has never been.