Toronto FC thought long and hard about bringing Dwayne De Rosario home.
The team’s all-time leading scorer, DeRo has won everything there is to win in MLS. But the former league MVP is 35 and made a whopping US$654,300 last season. Plus he left Toronto on bad terms in 2011.
In the end, the conclusion was the attacking midfielder would be a welcome asset if he were to agree to a new role and reduced contract number.
It seems everyone is on the same page, with Toronto choosing the former D.C. United star in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft Tuesday.
The move came after some careful discussion.
“Tim B (general manager Tim Bezbatchenko) and I got on the phone with Dwayne a couple of weeks ago and had a good hour conversation about what it is he wants to do, what happened here (in his first stint) and where we’re trying to go,” Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment boss Tim Leiweke told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
“And we aired it all out.”
The next step was for De Rosario to speak to manager Ryan Nelsen, to hear his vision for the future.
While Toronto had yet to get his signature on a contract as of the re-entry draft announcement, Leiweke talked as if a deal was all but done.
“I think (Bezbatchenko) and Dwayne and Dwayne’s agent did a very good job of trying to find a fair deal,” he said. “And to Dwayne’s credit, he understands that if this is about winning, we had to have enough room left within our (salary) cap to add a couple more pieces here.
“And I believe they have found a deal that will do that ... A lot of credit to Dwayne. He probably could get paid more elsewhere. But he chose to come to Toronto because he likes what we’re building here. And boy is that a change.
“For a guy that left because he didn’t like what we were doing, to come back because he likes what we’re doing, I think says an awful lot about Tim B and Nellie and the job they’ve done this off-season.”
Teams have seven days to make a “bona fide offer” to players selected in Stage 2 of the re-entry draft. If an agreement can’t be reached, the club holds the right of first refusal for that player in MLS.
De Rosario became available when D.C. United opted not to pick up his option at the end of the season. Playing for the league’s worst team in 2013, the Canadian had three goals and two assists in 24 games.
De Rosario currently ranks sixth on the all-time MLS scoring list with 103 goals.
Contrast that with the current TFC roster, which has a combined 37 career MLS goals.
Money has played a key role in De Rosario’s history with Toronto.
In his first go-round at Toronto, he made US$443,750 in 2010 while fellow Canadian Julian de Guzman made $1.7 million as a designated player.
It seemed an inequity to everyone but Toronto FC, with player and club disagreeing whether there had been an agreement to rewrite his contract.
De Rosario shone a spotlight on his money concerns when he celebrated a goal in a 3-2 home loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in September 2010 by pretending to sign a cheque.
He later apologized for the move, which Tom Anselmi, then MLSE executive vice-president and COO, called disappointing and unacceptable.
Two games into the 2011 season, he was traded to the New York Red Bulls.
The De Rosario selection Tuesday was the latest in a flurry of TFC moves.
Brazilian striker Gilberto is on board as a designated player with England and Spurs striker Jermain Defoe expected to announce his allegiance in the January transfer window.
Toronto has also acquired MLS experience in the form of Brazilian midfielder Jackson and defender Justin Morrow while picking up draft picks in trading away the rights of goalkeeper Stefan Frei and midfielder Bobby Convey.
Toronto is not looking for DeRo to be the face of the team. That job will fall to its final designated player signing — read Defoe, if all goes well.
De Rosario’s role on the field will likely be that as a third striker, while playing a veteran’s role in the locker-room.
Signing DeRo would be seen by many local fans as righting a past wrong. It also helps signal that Toronto is a worthy destination.
As Nelsen said at the Gilberto signing, players look to the future rather than the post. Which is good considering Toronto’s MLS record since De Rosario was traded away is 16-50-34.
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