Dwayne De Rosario is a fantastic player.
It can even be said that he is arguably the best ever to suit up for the Canadian men's team. As a four-time Canadian player of the year
, an MLS MVP (in a year when he played for three different teams no less) and the holder of the all-time leading scorer record for Canadian internationals, few are likely to ever reach his high water mark.
And that's not even mentioning his four MLS Cups, one CONCACAF Gold Cup and a whole whack of other individual awards that he has accumulated over his career.
There are others who have climbed to similar career and international heights in their own right of course - Jason DeVos, Alex Bunbury and Dale Mitchell to name a couple - but player for player, few have done for club and country what DeRo has.
That all being said, does anyone expect him to still be contributing when he's nearly 40-years-old and the next World Cup rolls around?
Following a season-ending knee injury last season and some niggling, problematic flare-ups to start this year, it seems ever clearer that even the indestructible DeRo is on the career decline.
"He still heals pretty quickly for an old man," De Rosario's current head coach, Ben Olsen of DC United, quipped recently to the Washington Post.
Age, injuries catching up to veteran
But even as that clean-living vegan, it's clear that his age and body are beginning to catch up to him.
Which, given that he won't be around in the next cycle, presents an interesting question - one that could be applied to a number of players on Canada, but is particularly poignant framed around DeRo - should Canada move on without him?
For the first time in a long time, De Rosario hasn't answered the call to represent Canada when they take on Costa Rica May 28, in Edmonton. It wasn't from Canada's lack of trying.
"There was no shortage of commitment from the Canadian guys but at this point we're trying to work with the clubs," interim head coach Colin Miller said on Monday.
Canada, as always, faced difficulty in getting the clubs to release some of their better players for international duty. If the club had allowed it, it's likely DeRo would have accepted.
To his credit, De Rosario, even with all of his club accomplishments, has always put Canada first.
Despite possessing that quality which few in the modern game have, his play for club and country still attracts a fair share of detractors. De Rosario has often faced characterizations of being a selfish player, on and off the field, throughout his career. His supporters jump to his defence over those claims by calling it a one-way focus, or a winner's mentality.
But, whatever you want to call it, there is little denying that his presence on the field can, at times, be disruptive. Not in the throwing tantrums kind of way, but that the style he plays, fiercely independent and bucking at most traditional tactical systems, leaves him as a lone wolf out there. Mostly it forces the squad to play around him.
A pair of international games for Canada at the start of this year crystalized the issue.
The national team, headed then by Miller as well, recognized that it was at a changing of the guard and decided to pass up a number of familiar selections in favour of calling a much younger squad. They've done something similar again for Costa Rica next week.
These selections are going to be the players who factor for Canada over the next three World Cup cycles. So, the intent was, correctly, to get them used to playing with each other and against high level competition.
Among the young selections
was Kyle Bekker, currently, one of Canada's brightest prospects, and one who will likely occupy the defensive midfield role for some time to come.
Bekker, who started alongside De Rosario against Denmark and then again a few days later against the Americans, spent good stretches of those games sending long, seeking balls to DeRo as he tried to slip in behind defenders. Many of his teammates did the same.
It wasn't a bad strategy. It has worked throughout De Rosario's career. But it's not a strategy that does anything to help this young, transitional squad get used to playing together. And certainly not one that sees DeRo helping develop young players by forcing them to play his style.
Yes, they could simply play the game their coach wanted and freeze De Rosario out, but imagine how intimidating it is for young players to ignore the hollers of a guy they grew up watching.
One day, very soon, the national team is not going to have that DeRo outlet option. And with no players of a similar style coming up behind him in the development pipeline, they might as well just be giving the ball back to their opponents at this point.
De Rosario is deserving of every bit of the accolades he receives. And his accomplishments and dedication perhaps even warrant a send-off game in Toronto, his hometown, in the form of an international friendly this fall.
But between now and then though, it needs to be quietly suggested to him that it is time to step away from the international game, for the good of the Canadian team that he has served so well.
Back to accessibility links