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Danny Dichio: The first and brightest star so far

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 | 04:01 PM

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Danny Dichio had a word for his most loyal fans as he bid adieu to his on-field career with Toronto FC.

“They still think I’m the best player in the world,” Dichio chuckled. “In our own backyard that is.”

The affable 34-year-old forward, the most prolific in the fledgling history of the franchise, was referring to his own children who will come to learn of their father’s importance to TFC only with the passing of time. For the moment it had become apparent to Dichio and his employers that making a change was the way to go.

Time for change

There were no tears or harsh words but instead a sort of resignation that pervaded the conference room, which saw Dichio flanked by director of soccer, Mo Johnston and head coach Chris Cummins, for the announcement. They shook hands at the end of it all and seemed to be unified in their belief that Dichio’s new role as club ambassador and apprentice coach was the best thing for the team and more importantly, the person.

“My body’s been feeling a bit bad and I’ve not been playing as much as I wanted to,” Dichio admitted. “It’s going to be a hard transition but I’m looking forward to it.”

For his part, Johnston was respectful of Dichio and recalled the importance of a journeyman player who had become a cult figure on Toronto’s sporting landscape in a very short period of time. Danny Dichio, all agreed, was a player who had become the expansion team’s most trusted talent from the very beginning.

“We needed someone who would fight for things up front and Danny never let us down on that,” Johnston said. “But we all knew this moment was coming.”

It is the kind of moment that always arrives when maturing professional sports teams understand that their fans need not only heroic figures and beloved characters – they also crave the day when the team grows into a contender.

It’s a safe bet to say that Danny Dichio has been gently moved aside so that TFC can get on with the business of acquiring younger, more skilled players. Players like Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman whose arrival is apparently imminent.

“No hard feelings,” Dichio said firmly. “None at all.”

The same kind of thing happened when baseball’s Montreal Expos said good-bye to “Le Grand Orange,” Rusty Staub, and traded him to the New York Mets. Staub was a slugger and a gregarious presence. He had been the initial star of an expansion club and even learned the language of his adopted city – his number 10 became the first retired in Montreal Expos’ history.

Right man for Toronto FC

But here’s the great thing about Danny Dichio and the way he went out. Off the field, he’ll stick around to see if what he started can hopefully get better. It’s his choice and this is what he wanted.

“To be honest before we came here our family had never been to Canada,” Dichio said. “As soon as we arrived we knew it was the right place for us.”

It was the right place and Danny Dichio was exactly the right man to be Toronto FC’s first and brightest star so far. He wanted to play, it’s true, but he wanted to stay even more.

This way everyone wins.

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