It was a rare public act of defiance and disillusion from a player who has been the very model of professionalism.
Toronto FC captain Dwayne De Rosario netted his team-leading 12th goal of the season during Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. Usually when the Toronto native finds the back of the net, he celebrates by doing his trademark "Dero shuffle."
Not this time, though. Instead, De Rosario ran to the sidelines and in fashion much like a heavy-metal fan would play air guitar, he mockingly signed a cheque.
Toronto-San Jose recap
Chris Wondolowski scored a hat trick to lead the Earthquakes.
De Rosario and Maicon Santos scored for Toronto (8-10-8), which now faces a near-impossible task, needing virtually to win its final four games — three of which are on the road.
Toronto FC did themselves in early Saturday at BMO Field, giving up a goal in just the third minute on a penalty shot — awarded when Dan Gargan took down Bobby Convey in the 18-yard-box — and spent the rest of the game trying to battle back from their early-game blunder.
Wondolowski's fired his penalty shot past Toronto keeper Stefan Frei to the left corner.
The Earthquakes midfielder notched his second of the game in the 53rd minute, sprinting through Toronto's back line to connect on a cross from Ryan Johnson.
De Rosario brought the BMO field crowd back to life in the 66th minute, chipping in a shot from just outside the 18-yard-box into the top right corner past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.
But the positive vibe was short-lived as just a minute later, Wondolowski scored from the identical spot at the other end of the field to put the Earthquakes (11-7-6) back up by two.
Santos brought the crowd of 20,064 back to its feet when he scored in the 80th minute, sprinting onto a cross from Mista and tapping in a left-footed shot right in front of the net.
Toronto had several chances in a frantic final few minutes, but a win wasn't to be and boos could be heard as the final whistle sounded.
The game was the first at home since the club fired coach Preki and GM Mo Johnston, and named Nick Dasovic interim head coach. And the home team's confidence was high coming off a 2-1 win at Houston and 0-0 tie with Cruz Azul in CONCONCAF Champions League action.
The remainder of the MLS season takes Toronto to Seattle, Chivas USA, and D.C. United. They host the Columbus Crew in their final regular-season game at BMO Field on Oct. 16.
— Canadian Press
What was he trying to communicate? Simple: He wants a pay raise.
"That’s what it was," De Rosario said of the significance of the unusual gesture.
"I think I’ve shown my commitment to this team and this city and this franchise. It’s time for [the club] to show me some commitment as well."
Currently in the second year of a four-year contract that will pay him $443,750 US this season, the 32-year-old De Rosario said team management hasn’t shown him a proper commitment from a financial perspective. The Canadian veteran is the third-highest paid player on the club, behind fellow Canadian Julian de Guzman ($1,717,546) and Spanish forward Mista ($987,337, pro-rated since he arrived mid-season).
"Definitely — 100 per cent," De Rosario replied when asked if he felt he deserves a pay raise.
Does he think he should be the highest paid player on the team?
"Well, definitely up there. It’s too long now. Every year I’ve been showing my worth and it’s about time they come to me with something," stated De Rosario.
"I know of other clubs who have gone to their star players and ripped up their contracts and I think it's only fair. It does get frustrating after a while — after you continue to give your all and perform."
The evidence suggests De Rosario has a point.
Since signing with TFC last January, De Rosario has firmly established himself as the club’s franchise player. His 23 goals ranks him as the team’s all-time leading scorer, he helped Toronto win back-to-back Canadian club championships in 2009 and 2010 and he was named the club’s MVP last season.
He has also been generous with his time off the field, becoming the face of the team in countless charity and promotional appearances.
It’s hard to imagine where Toronto FC would be without him, especially this season when he has scored some crucial goals in important games. There’s really not much more he can do.
"Tell management that. Don’t tell me that, [tell] management that," De Rosario stated.
The TFC star made it clear he won’t allow his unhappiness over his contract to affect his play one bit the rest of the season.
"I’m going to continue to play with pride and that passion and leave everything on the field," he said.
Saturday’s loss served a crushing blow to Toronto FC’s playoff hopes. Still looking to make the post-season for the first time since entering Major League Soccer in 2007, the Reds will need to win all four of their remaining games if they are to have a shot at making the playoffs.
The odds are not in Toronto’s favour, but De Rosario, who used an expletive to describe the mood of the team after Saturday’s loss, isn’t throwing in the towel.
"No. Not me," De Rosario said. "You’re probably asking the wrong guy. I’m still going to give 100 per cent. We still go out there to play for pride and that’s pretty much it.
"That’s not to say we’re out of it. We have four games and if we can get 12 points out of four games, hopefully some teams stumble along the way and we get a win."