When referee Silviu Petrescu blew his whistle for the final time on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field, Toronto FC forward Dwayne De Rosario jogged over to the south stands to salute the passionate fans who frequent that section of the stadium.
The Toronto home boy then wrapped a black and white flag around his shoulders — a gift from one of the TFC faithful — and wore it back to the dressing room, all the while his teammates acknowledged the 20,086 on hand who had braved the freezing winds blowing off Lake Ontario.
It was almost the perfect home opener for TFC, a team that limped out of Vancouver last weekend following a 4-2 loss to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Reds bounced back in impressive style on Saturday, posting a 2-0 victory over another MLS expansion team, the Portland Timbers, on two goals by Javier Martina.
But not all is well in TFC Land, at least on the surface.
Whether this is an alarming development or just a reflection of the weather, but BMO Field was not a sell-out — a first for a TFC home opener.
On top of that, De Rosario, who had another strong game, mysteriously disappeared afterwards and did not show up for the media availability with the rest of his teammates, setting off a wild goose chase by some TFC front office types, who searched for the team’s career leading goal scorer in the dressing room and by the stands, but to no avail.
Though he had a strong effort, creating several good chances, including a fine touch pass back to set up Martina’s first goal at the 14th minute, De Rosario’s body language during the match looked off.
Not that he didn’t play hard, he did. But De Rosario just appears disjointed. It’s been well-documented that the Toronto native is not happy with his contract situation and has asked TFC for more money and a longer deal. But though he is the team captain and the club’s leader, TFC hasn’t budged.
So the question is: Is DeRo playing under some sort of protest, and his skipping out on his media obligations afterwards a sign of that? And, if so, will that affect his situation on and off the pitch going forward?
The Reds certainly need their captain happy, healthy and wise if they hope to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history.
The good news, though, is that there appears to be some real magic between De Rosario and midfielder Maicon Santos, who both scored against Vancouver and were creative again on Saturday. Against the Whitecaps, Santos also set up De Rosario brilliantly for the team’s first goal of the season.
Now, throw Martina into the mix. He was signed by TFC on March 9 and made his home debut in spectacular fashion. His first goal, set up by De Rosario, was an easy strike from in front, but his second, in the 70th minute, was outstanding. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei used the wind to launch the ball deep down the right side of field and Martina hammered it home on one bounce into the far corner past a sprawling Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. After scoring, Martina ran over to the sidelines to give head coach Aron Winter and assistant Bob de Klerk a hug. Martina played for both at Ajax.
“I wanted to tell them thank you,” said the personable forward. “Because in my last year at Ajax, I broke my ACL and it was also the last year of my contract, and they gave me a second chance (here). That’s why it was so beautiful.”
Martina seemed to be open frequently on Saturday, likely because the opposition concentrated more on De Rosario and Santos and that could be something the Reds can exploit in future contests.
“Everyone knows De Rosario and they don’t know nothing about me yet,” said Martina. “But, I guess, as of today, they know me now.”