Soccer

TFC's De Rosario holds firm on contract demands

Toronto FC opens the 2011 Major League Soccer regular season on March 19 on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. But TFC captain Dwayne de Rosario may sit out that game and others unless he is offered a new and improved contract.

Reds captain could sit out until a new deal is in place

Beware the Ides of March — or in the case of Toronto FC, March 19.

The Reds open the 2011 Major League Soccer regular season on March 19 on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. But TFC captain Dwayne de Rosario may sit out that game and others unless he is offered a new and improved contract.

De Rosario, a 32-year-old native of the Scarborough area of Toronto, is entering the second half of a four-year deal with the Reds. He earned $443,750 US during the 2010 season, well behind the club's top earner, fellow Canadian Julian de Guzman ($1,717,546 US).

Last September, De Rosario publicly stated he wasn't happy with his salary and went so far as to celebrate a goal he scored in a game against San Jose by mockingly signing a cheque. The gesture was a clear message to team management that he wanted to renegotiate his contract.

Several months have passed, but De Rosario hasn't softened his stance, hinting that he will not play this year without a new contract.

"No, there's too much risk in that," De Rosario admitted Wednesday.

Option year

When pressed by reporters on whether he would withhold his services until a new deal is in place, De Rosario said: "I'm pretty sure by that time it will be resolved so I'm not even going to try to put too much energy into that because I'll have to deal with that on March 19."

De Rosario is in the option year of his contract. Not only is he after more money, but he also wants some sort of guarantees worked into a new deal that would give him security in case of injury.

"I'm the captain of the team, I want to focus on my football and my football only," De Rosario said. "But at the same time my future — this is my option year, and if anything happens to me in terms of injuries nothing is guaranteed and then I'm on the outside looking in.

"I have to look at my future and my family's future as well."

De Guzman is the team's only existing designated player, after Spanish star Mista was let go in the off-season. But De Rosario feels he should also be given a DP contract and the pay increase that comes with it.

"It's not what I want, it's what I think I deserve," he said.

Franchise player

Since joining the club via a trade with Houston in 2009, De Rosario has firmly established himself as Toronto FC's franchise player. His 31 goals rank 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 year.

He further underlined his worth in 2010 when he scored 15 of his team's 33 goals and was one of the few bright spots on a team that failed to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

It's clear that there are some hurt feelings on the part of De Rosario, who questioned the club's eagerness with regards to renegotiating his contract.

"I guess if they were really motivated it would have got done a long time ago," De Rosario admitted.

Paul Mariner, the club's newly installed director of player development, declined to go into detail about contract negotiations with De Rosario, saying only that, "We're trying to work things out."

New deal a priority

De Rosario revealed he met with new TFC head coach and technical director Aron Winter, who assured him that contract negotiations are considered a priority.

"I spoke to Mr. Winter and he said that's one thing he wants to address and that's one thing he wants to resolve sooner than later," De Rosario said.

Wednesday marked the first time De Rosario talked with local media since returning earlier this month from Glasgow where he was training with Scottish club Celtic Glasgow during the MLS off-season.

De Rosario's Celtic stint became a controversial topic after TFC issued a news release stating their captain did not go through proper channels before heading over to Scotland.

Not so, according to De Rosario.

"There was no confusion on my part," he said. "Me going over there … everything was clear, both parties knew about it and I guess stuff hit the fan and some people had their backs against the wall. That's professional sports."

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