Dwayne De Rosario is as polarizing a character as there comes in Canadian soccer. Some consider him one of the best to ever lace up the boots in Canada. Others call him just another self-centered player out for himself.
And when he left Toronto FC season last year - a trade that was a result of both chronic mismanagement by the organization and the player's camp - never was that divide greater. Depending on who you ask, De Rosario was either a player who never got the respect he deserved from Toronto FC, was lied to and finally forced out after years of failed promises. Or he was a man who mock signed cheques at the owner's box, took off to Celtic and eventually walked out on his team.
Whatever he was - a golden boot winner, league MVP (the first ever for a Canadian in Major League Soccer) and member of three MLS teams in one season - the man who has been the cause of so much discussion over the past year, is putting what he calls the most difficult year of his professional career behind him.
Toughest time in 11 MLS seasons
"It was up and down. Celtic was a great experience and there was nothing but good things there. Things were looking fine until everything started to come unravelled at the end of April," De Rosario told CBCSports.ca from Charleston, S.C.
"Obviously, it's unfortunate that I had to leave Toronto FC to gain the kind of respect I was looking for. But the fans there showed me a lot of respect and I'm really grateful to them for that."
"The move from Toronto to New York and New York to D.C. was definitely not the easiest. It was difficult. But sometimes you have to use negative things to help motivate you and use them to create positives. I didn't let the off-field stuff affect my on-field stuff," he said.
And that's where most people can agree.
For whatever you may think of him as a player off the field or as a player in the locker-room, there is little to deny about his performance on the pitch. He accumulated 93 goals over just a decade in MLS and potted 19 for his country in senior men's action in about the same amount of time.
D.C. United saw that for what it was and this week offered him a long-term contract with the club.
Doesn't like DP term
De Rosario declined to disclose the terms of his new contract, but sources within MLS and D.C. United confirmed to CBC that he will make in the range of $700,000 US in the first of a three-year contract, with United holding options to extend. Although he is now making designated player level salary, the club is paying down that amount through allocation money. It's a move that suits the reigning MVP just fine.
"I don't even like the term DP [designated player]. I'm just one of the guys on the team and nothing more. I don't think any other DP in this league likes the term DP."
On the surface, offering a 33-year-old a long-term contract at this stage in his career might seem like a mistake. But for a player who, aside from one major injury early in his career, has rarely missed a game, it's more than just a legacy contract, it's a sound investment. Made even more so, by the quality of relationship he now has with his head coach Ben Olsen.
"We go a ways back. I used to play against him on the national team and against him when he was at D.C. United," De Rosario said. "We share the same passion for the sport. We have a good understanding of each other. So we have a good working relationship on and off the field so I think that going forward it creates a good connection for me to D.C. United."
Connection is an odd choice of words. In Toronto, he was the hometown hero, who was brought in to resonate with the local fans and help grow the game. But for whatever reason - be it contract or conflict - the roots never took.
So, who is to blame in the Toronto FC vs. De Rosario divorce? Don't ask him - he's moving on.
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