At 33, Dwayne De Rosario has nearly done it all in his career.
Gold Cup winner? Check. MLS Cup champion? Four times. MLS Cup most valuable player awards? Got a couple of those too.
However, over his 11-year Major League Soccer career, the Toronto native has neither taken home the regular-season MVP trophy, nor realized the dream of every player by appearing in the World Cup finals.
One of those waits may end on Friday; the latter may take a while longer.
De Rosario will be in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson for the announcement of the league’s top individual honour before taking in Sunday’s championship game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and his former club, the Houston Dynamo – although he has mixed feelings about the trip.
“It sucks watching it, and to not be a part of that, knowing that you’re training without any games is difficult,” he said, “but being selected as an MVP candidate is a huge honour and one I’m very thankful for.”
It’s certainly been earned under less-than-ideal circumstances, having played for three different head coaches with three different teams (four if you want to count his off-season loan spell with Celtic of the Scottish Premier League). But through it all, De Rosario has continued to excel, scoring a career-high 16 goals in MLS play and adding another 12 assists, one shy of his personal best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to lift D.C. United, where he ended the season after spells with Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls, into the playoffs, but it certainly made others sit up and take notice.
New York captain Thierry Henry called his former teammate “the face of the league,” earlier this week, telling the MLS website “in this league, I haven’t seen anybody better.” Compliments that left the Canadian midfielder “humbled.”
But before they open the envelope Friday, De Rosario has other important business to attend to. Although Canada is already safely through to the third round in the drawn-out process of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – courtesy of last Friday’s 0-0 draw at St. Kitts and Nevis – the national team is looking to close out the second round with a largely meaningless home date against the same opponent in Toronto on Tuesday.
For De Rosario though, the match will be anything but meaningless. After drawing a blank in his last three starts, the game represents another chance to tie Dale Mitchell’s Canadian goal-scoring record of 19 – an honour he would compare to anything he has done throughout his career.
“That would definitely be up there,” De Rosario said. “My family sacrificed a lot leaving Guyana to come here to create opportunity for myself and my family. And if I go on to accomplish that, it really goes to show you that anything is possible.”
As of now, the Canadian men’s national team continues to show it’s possible to make the World Cup. After Tuesday’s match, coach Stephen Hart’s team will advance to another round robin against Cuba, Honduras and Panama, slated for early next year. Beyond that, a final group phase against the likes of the United States and Mexico would be all that stood in the way of a trip to Brazil.
As much as it would mean to De Rosario personally, having been drawn to soccer largely by watching Canada’s lone excursion to the sharp end of world soccer in 1986, the former TFC captain is aware of just how much a return trip could mean to the next crop of national players.
“That’s the biggest reward,” he said. “My family supports me regardless, but the bigger picture is the next generation and that is the youth and the young players that are wanting to play at the next level, that are trying to make it in the world of soccer that aren’t being noticed.
“We make the World Cup and everything else becomes more serious and intensified in terms of the attention being put on the sport in this country, which I think has been [played down]for a long time.
“Soccer is the No. 1 played sport in Canada, and it’s been that way for a long time. And I think if we make the World Cup, it will finally get the credit it deserves.”