De Rosario's dream fulfilled

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

Nobody can accuse Toronto's professional teams of not being able to create a big splash.

Here's hoping the latest splash doesn't end up where so many before it have -- in the sewer.

Jason Blake was supposed to goose the Leafs' offence. Kerry Joseph was supposed to be the Argonauts' shining star and Scott Rolen was going to give the Blue Jays punch. Everybody knows how well those turned out.

"It's the biggest signing TFC is going to make in the next three, four years," Toronto FC general manager Mo Johnston said after midfielder Dwayne de Rosario signed a four-year contract to return to his hometown. "I've been trying to get Dwayne for two years. This is a proud moment."

This turned into a Cinderfella story. De Rosario was introduced at a packed news conference that had TV and camera lights a-poppin' with Obamania frequency. Then came a fan reception. Outside the Air Canada Centre, fans clustered hoping for an autograph. Inside, the accolades flowed.

"I've been grinning like a Cheshire cat," said John Carver, noting this may have been his most enjoyable week as Toronto coach when he considers the addition of de Rosario, as well as forward O'Brian White, midfielder Sam Cronin and goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the MLS draft. The team also is chasing international Pablo Vitti.

Said Carver: "With the quality we've added, we should make the playoffs."

They better. Both Carver and Johnston's jobs could well depend on it. With the team heading into its third season, fans are no longer willing just to watch a team. They are starting to demand a winning team. "It was important to bring on a big name. He will help us on and off the field," Johnston said.

Even as the club wilted down the stretch last season, there was muttering about the direction of the team. De Rosario is a proven winner. "Hopefully his experience, knowing what it is to win, rubs off on the rest of the team," Carver said. TFC is hoping his playoff performances also will rub off. He has won four MLS Cups with San Jose and Houston and scored the game-winning goal and received the MLS Cup MVP award twice -- in 2001 and 2007.

And, now he's coming home. "I grew up in Scarborough playing for the Blizzard, St. Andrews and my greatest memories are from playing in Malvern. Every kid who plays soccer aspires to be a pro and to play in their hometown. This is the kind of moment you dream about as a kid," said de Rosario, whose mother and brothers attended what at times felt like an anointing.

Asked what he learned playing in Scarborough, he laughed. "It toughened me up," he said.

If de Rosario's play is as good as his word, Carver, Johnston and the fans have nothing to worry them. "If we don't' make the playoffs I'd be very disappointed. I've made the playoffs every year I've been in the league ... and the fans here deserve it," de Rosario said. "We have a starting lineup with experience. We have some great young talent coming in and our bench is stronger. I'm looking forward to a memorable season ... eventually, I can see us winning a Cup here."

De Rosario, 30, is probably the most talented Canadian not currently in Europe.

He has 53 caps with the national team, picking up 15 goals, and has been voted Canadian Player of the Year three times. He won MLS goal of the year honours in 2004 and 2005.

Carver said he's looking forward to hooking him up with Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson. "He gives us options because he can play a couple of positions. I know he prefers to play in the midfield area and I know what he brings to the team," Carver said. "He's a fantastic goal scorer. When games are tight he can open them up for us with a pass."

De Rosario's preference? He's just happy to be here: "Whatever helps the team, I'll do -- even if it means play in net." Of course, this team unity stuff only goes so far. He wants to wear No. 14. It belongs to Tyrone Marshall. De Rosario figures he'll find a way. After all, when it comes to a soccer pitch, finding a way always has been what he does best.


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