TORONTO – Dark clouds dominated the sky surrounding BMO Field as a torrential downpour fell onto the city on Saturday. Meanwhile, Toronto FC fans trickled into the stadium, where, tucked away in a quiet corner, history was being made.
It was on this rainy day that Canadian legend Dwayne De Rosario announced his retirement from professional soccer, as his hometown club, Toronto FC, prepared to take on De Rosario’s first MLS club, the San Jose Earthquakes. But for De Rosario, the rain didn’t put a damper on the day, and the MLS icon was all smiles as he embraced the next stage of his career in soccer with his 3-year-old son by his side.
“Everyone knows why we’re here,” De Rosario said to a small gathering of reporters. “It’s never easy to make a decision, especially with the sport I love. I’ve always said, I came out kicking in my mom’s stomach and I haven’t stopped kicking up to this day. I have some great memories, some fond memories that will last me for the rest of my life. I’m very blessed.”
De Rosario, a father of four, cited a desire to spend more time with his family as a key factor in his decision to step away from the game.
“I’ve come to the point in my career where I’m comfortable to say I’ve given this sport everything I can and now, on the outside, there’s even more to give back,” De Rosario said. “I’m looking forward to…being an ambassador with Toronto FC, and working with the Pan Am games, as well as my initiatives with De Ro United and giving back to areas that I grew up in, that sometimes get overlooked a little bit and don’t have the resources and outlets that other communities have.”
“I really look forward to working with those kids,” he added. “There’s no better way to retire than at home. This is truly a dream come true for me. I couldn’t have planned it any better, to retire at my hometown with my home fans in my home club.”
For De Rosario, giving back to the community is his primary objective. His work with De Ro United gives kids of all walks of life a chance at reaching their goal of being a professional, the same goal De Rosario himself held so firmly as a child.
“As a kid, growing up, I always wanted to be a professional soccer player,” he said. “Being a professional was a dream come true. All of those accolades were a bonus towards that. When I won that first championship and made my fans and my community and my country proud, it made me want more. I wanted to shine a light on Canadian talent. That’s why I set up my foundation and my De Ro United house league to try and find the next Canadian star and the next Toronto FC star.”
Still, despite the long list of accolades, De Rosario says he still has more work to do in Toronto, now behind the scenes as the brand ambassador for the club.
“The unfinished business was to bring this city a championship,” De Rosario said. “I meant that as a player, but I still have those goals in mind and that dream in my heart on the outside now. I’ll be focused now on the back end and working with Tim Bezbatchenko and seeing what recipe we can put together to make sure that happens in this city.”
“I think we’re on the right track and I’m looking forward to that day,” he concluded. “I’ll be just like every other fan out there, anticipating that great day and celebrating just as if I won it as a player.”
The 37-year-old retires from the sport having played in Major League Soccer from 2001-2014. In that time, he won four MLS Cups, won the MLS MVP and Golden Boot in 2011, was named MLS Cup MVP on two occasions, won the U.S. Open Cup, was named to the MLS Best XI six times, was a seven-time MLS All Star and scored 109 career league goals.
With Toronto FC, he helped win back-to-back Amway Canadian Championships and remains the club’s all-time top scorer (33 goals). For Canada, De Rosario is one of the country’s most legendary players; his 81 caps and 22 goals make him the most prolific in Canadian soccer history.
He won the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup with Canada and was named to the country’s all-time best XI. A special testimonial match will also be played in his honor on June 20 before Toronto FC takes on New York City FC, one final moment in a career defined by special memories.
"Representing my country was a special moment,” De Rosario said. "Coming back to Toronto and embracing my hometown fans, that was a special moment. All of them were special in their own right. I was very blessed to win four championships and pretty much, every time I accomplished that, in a funny way, I had a child born. It’s tough for me to choose one accolade.
"I’m very grateful for all of them.”