TORONTO - Dwayne De Rosario is ready for (contractual) war.
That’s the dramatic, blown-out-of-proportion storyline destined to be served up by a multitude of content providers after Toronto FC’s Media Day.
The story is easy. It’s been told before at different times and in different places. But Wednesday’s version writes itself: De Rosario, donning a Fidel Castro hat and military-styled winter boots, taking dead-aim on his target of a new contract, in a combative way, fitting of a revolutionary.
The narrative sparks controversy. It suggests intrigue. But in reality, there’s very little to speak of.
If De Rosario is waging a war, the battle is one-sided.
Toronto FC’s new coaching staff and management team are going to do what’s best for the team going forward, with or without De Rosario.
De Rosario has said it all before. His discontent has been reported in this newspaper over the past weeks and months: He’s disappointed his short-term loan deal at Celtic fell through, he’s not happy how Toronto FC handled it, and he wants a new contract with guarantees. End of story.
De Rosario’s desire for a new contract is well taken. He’s a local superstar with Major League Soccer pedigree superior to any on the roster, and most of the league for that matter. Ideally, De Rosario will remain in his hometown for many productive years to come. Even new head coach Aron Winter and director of player development Paul Mariner want the situation to play out this way.
No disrespect to the pent-up frustration he has with previous perceived injustices and the good fight De Rosario continues to wage for long-term security, but Winter and Mariner have a bigger uphill fight of their own, building an entire team to their liking in mere weeks to be as ready as possible for the 2011 season.
De Rosario is only one piece, albeit an important one. Where De Rosario (as well as other important pieces, Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann, who also find themselves in a contractual lurch) fits into the equation will be decided in the coming weeks. Guaranteeing substantial monies or ensuring any kind of role definition to any player at this point would be nonsensical. After thorough, first-hand evaluation, if the player fits the system/tactics wanting to be played with a price-tag deemed reflective of their value, all players will be settled. If not, the page will be flipped and replacements will be found. It’s a clean slate at Toronto FC, and it’s been needed for quite some time.
The process is the same for all players in camp. Some will fit the mold; others will not.
Does this mean De Rosario should shut his mouth and get on with it? From this point forward, yes. But as for Wednesday, not in the slightest.
De Rosario has done what he’s been told; he’s shown up at camp, he’s going to Turkey and he will remain the team’s captain. Wednesday was about publicly throwing his cards on the table in his fight for a guaranteed contract he started with the previous regime some year-and- a-half ago. Last year’s Media Day, De Rosario took a vow of silence, not talking to the media. Last month’s short-term loan gone wrong with Celtic required him to speak this time around.
Funny enough, De Rosario wasn’t forthcoming on how his loan-deal fell through – no need to throw his current employer or an historic team with all kinds of international connections under the bus.
Notwithstanding his apprehension to play without a new contract, De Rosario has remained consistent in his position. A long contract dispute ending in De Rosario holding out is as far-fetched a proposition as they come. At MLS wages, it’s simply not a reality. De Rosario’s contract situation will be sorted out by the season opener, March 19.
The most likely conclusion ends with De Rosario given a guaranteed contract, ensuring he’ll be in Toronto for the foreseeable future. The war will be won through actions, not words. Good thing for DeRo, his game is his biggest bargaining chip. He’s the on-field leader, and even at 32 years of age, continues to produce.
A public relations fight, he may not win. But few are more convincing winning the battles on the field. And in the new environment at TFC, free of entitlement, where each and every player is expendable, De Rosario will surely rise to the challenge and prove his worth, as he has done so many times before.