I stood behind the south goal at an empty BMO Field, watching Canada practice a couple of days before that first Jamaica game.
They were doing this five-on-the-goalie practice drill – Iain Hume and Tomasz Radzinski wide, Ali Gerba in the slot, another guy who might have been Kevin McKenna but it’s gone from my memory just now … and Dwayne DeRosario, roaming the high right-centre, looking so smooth, calm and ready to deal.
It wasn’t what it sounds like. The Canadian strike force wasn’t just ganging up on a poor, overmatched goalie. They played like they were facing a full complement of international-level defenders. Timed runs, searching passes, give-and-go shuffles – all designed to set up that elusive clear and fatal shot.
In the games that followed, alas and of course, that shot never came. But the memory of how good Our Guys looked that day – the sheer pleasure of seeing them up-close and unopposed – is staying with me.
Well, dear folks, the wheel has turned, and it turns out fans in the south end are going to be seeing a whole lot of Dwayne DeRosario up-close. As of late Friday afternoon, struggling defensive prospect Julius James and an untold whack of cash have been dealt south to the Houston Dynamo – and one of the very few true international-calibre Canadians is the newest member of Toronto FC.
It’s a great fit.
We’ve all wanted him here all along, of course, but maybe the team needed a couple of years to break itself in before this moment came. All last season – as early hope got buried by four months of desert, which bloomed too little and too late in the final month – the cry for DeRosario rose.
He became TFC’s hero – hope – future.
And now … fact.
A man whose teams have never missed the MLS playoffs. A man with four championship rings, who has scored three goals in MLS Cup finals, two of which directly brought home the prize.
But also, in fairness, a man who is 30 now, who struggled a bit offensively last season, logging seven goals and just two assists.
Overall, DeRo will be a hugely positive addition to Toronto FC. Just his attitude alone – and the fact that the ball goes forward when prowls the midfield – will be huge. Famously from Scarborough, Ontario, DeRo will now ply his trade in front of fevered, fervent, frantic hometown fans. That’s got to be a huge lift.
The whole designated player thing is quite another issue, and I’ll write more about it later.
I’m actually hoping TFC GM Mo Johnston can make DeRo exceptionally happy on non-DP money, so The Big Cheque is still available for a king-hell god of a goal scorer, who could get very plump and happy with Chad Barrett beside him and both DeRo and Amado Guevara feeding him from the back.
(Although, of course, there is still that aching vacant mess in the centre of defence. Maybe the DP bucks go there.)
Today, though, is about celebrating the arrival of the finest Canadian star Toronto FC has ever signed. We’ll sort out the fine print in the days and months – and years! – to come.
Are ya pumped, Reds fans?