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De Rosario named Canada's men's soccer player of the year

DC United soccer player Dwayne de Rosario, who has been nominated for league MVP, is photographed in Toronto, Ont. Nov. 14/2011.

Kevin Van Paassen/Staff

It's been a year to remember for Dwayne De Rosario.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder from Toronto was named Canadian men's soccer player of the year for the fourth time Wednesday — one final honour from a memorable, eventful 2011,

"It's a huge honour," De Rosario said on a conference call. "Any time you have an opportunity to represent your country and be awarded with such a high honour it's special."

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The DC United star won Major League Soccer's Golden Boot as the league's leading scorer and became the first Canadian to be named MLS MVP.

All this after playing for three teams.

The 11-year MLS veteran, who was bounced from Toronto FC to the New York Red Bulls before finishing the season with DC United, said stepping onto the field helped him forget his frustrations off it.

"When I cross that line, I think that's where I get the most joy besides when I'm at home with my family," he said. "I just try to continue to play with that passion and that desire and that will to always improve. I think that helped me out tremendously.

On the international pitch, DeRo scored four goals this year for 19 on his career, tying the Canadian men's record held by Dale Mitchell.

Goal No. 19, in a World Cup qualifying game against St. Kitts and Nevis, was one of the highlights of his brilliant season. Another was notching Toronto FC's first goal of the season — versus the Whitecaps in Vancouver. He was embroiled in a contract dispute with Toronto at the time.

"I think that was important because any goal-scorer knows that the hardest thing is getting that first goal, especially with what I was going through mentally at that time," De Rosario said. "To score that felt like a great release."

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De Rosario, who will spend the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean for warm-weather training, was selected in a vote split by Canadian media and coaches.

De Rosario, who previously won the award in 2005, '06 and '07, earned 47.7 per cent of the votes, followed by Simeon Jackson (20.7), Josh Simpson (9.55), Andre Hainault (8.95), Marcel de Jong (3.55), and Will Johnson (3.3).

The female player of the year will be announced Thursday.

Canadian coach Stephen Hart said De Rosario deserved to be recognized for the year he put together.

"You must admire anyone who faces such an uncertain start of the season only to excel as he did in 2011," Hart said in a release. "Through the right mentality, he never allowed his on-field performance to suffer."

The one accomplishment missing from his 2011 list of accomplishments was a playoff appearance.

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When reminded of DC United's early-season exit, De Rosario said laughing: "I knew there was someone who had to remind of that. Thanks for destroying everything."

He said he would have swapped the MVP trophy in an instant for an appearance in the MLS championship game.

"That was my goal and it was definitely a disappointing year in not having the opportunity to make a playoffs," De Rosario said. "Hopefully next year we will make the playoffs and it will be a brighter ending to our season."

De Rosario was asked on Wednesday's conference call about the possibility of gaining a new Canadian teammate in Jonathan de Guzman. Reports say the Villarreal midfielder — the younger brother of Canadian international Julian de Guzman — wants to return home to play for Canada after suiting up for the Dutch under-21 and under-23 teams.

"I'm very happy Jonathan is deciding to come back and represent the national team. Everything is talks right now but hopefully come next round of world cup qualifiers, I see him in a Canadian uniform," De Rosario said. "I know for Julian that's a dream come true and I'm happy for his parents that they can actually see that their two sons representing a country."

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