TORONTO – Ever since the offseason transformation of Toronto FC began in earnest, their home opener against D.C. United (Saturday, 4:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada, MLS Live in US) was a much-anticipated occasion.
But for Toronto native Dwayne De Rosario, the game means so much more. Not only will he be playing in front of his hometown fans once again, he’ll be doing it against his old team.
De Rosario played for Toronto from 2009 to 2011, when he was traded to New York Red Bulls before eventually winding up with D.C. United that same season. After parting ways with D.C. after last season, TFC boss Ryan Nelsen came calling on the 2012 MLS Most Valuable Player.
“It’s my old team,” De Rosario told reporters at BMO Field Tuesday. “I’ve still got some good mates on D.C. United. We’re at home, we’ll be more attacking minded and come out of the gates flying against D.C.”
De Rosario could see another start up top alongside Jermain Defoe, the pairing in their 2-1 win last weekend over the Seattle Sounders, as doubts regarding Gilberto’s match fitness remain. Luckily for Nelsen, De Rosario is no stranger to scoring against his old sides. During his time with D.C. United, he managed to score four goals against Toronto FC.
“I don’t know what it is,” De Rosario said. “If you look historically, I’ve had a lot of success playing against my old teams and hopefully I can carry that same success into this Saturday.”
That threat hasn’t gone unnoticed by D.C. United manager Ben Olsen.
"His motivation for this game – that’s something for Dwayne," Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. "I think he overall enjoyed his time here and doesn’t have any ill will towards us. But I guarantee you he wouldn’t mind scoring on us. That’s just Dwayne. He’s a competitor.”
Said De Rosario: “For me, its just [about] playing in front of my fans again, playing in front of my family, being back home wearing the red-and-white jersey. It’s going to be another proud moment for me.”
Playing in Toronto is always a special moment for De Rosario. The Canadian international has been scrounging as many tickets as he can for friends and family for the sold-out match at BMO Field. He’s also excited to hear the familiar songs and chants of the Toronto faithful.
“You see what we played in in Seattle?” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com. “It would be awesome if we could have the same environment here. Soccer is back at a high point. Hopefully we can keep it at a high point with positive results and really create an unbelievable atmosphere.”
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The atmosphere at BMO Field could potentially see an improvement after Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee recently approved allotting $10 million towards Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president Tim Leiweke’s proposed stadium expansion. The $120 million expansion project is expected to increase the stadium’s capacity to 30,000 and add a roof over much of the seating area.
De Rosario was instrumental in the first wave of renovations at BMO Field back in 2010, when he publically pushed for a natural grass surface in place of artificial turf. This next construction project is just as welcomed as the first.
“I think it’s great,” De Rosario said. “It should have been done before. Obviously with the hype, there’s going to be more demand, high demand for tickets. So, create more space, more seats for the fans and a better environment.
“Playing here without a roof is kind of awkward [with] the wind coming off the water. If we can make this into a proper stadium, a solid stadium, I think everyone would benefit from it, including the players and the fans.”
De Rosario added: “We’re just looking to make this place a fortress again.”