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With four MLS titles and a pair of MLS CupMVP’s to his credit, it’d be easy to misclassify Dwayne De Rosario’s career asa series of overwhelming successes, void of the ups and downs reserved for themore pedestrian player. But acloser look at De Rosario’s resume makes it clear that whatever the Canadianinternational has won over the past eleven seasons in MLS has been earnedthanks to an ironclad will forged under the most unforgiving circumstances.
Before ever setting foot on an MLS field, DeRo– as he’s been known since exploding onto the domestic scene in 2001 - hadovercome more adversity than most players deal with in the entirety of acareer. The son of Guyaneseimmigrants to Canada, De Rosario’s family lived in the projects of Toronto’srough Scarborough neighborhood. Ina community well known for its violence and drugs, it was the beautiful gamethat kept DeRo on the right track during his early years.
“The streets raised us pretty much,” De Rosariorecalled last week as United wrapped up its preseason in Charleston, SouthCarolina. “When you are in thestreets, that's all you know. Thatbecomes your family, your life. But soccer was something that I was passionate about."
Still a youngster when his parents separated,De Rosario and his three brothers went to live with an aunt when he was justfive years old. With five peoplecrammed into a one-bedroom apartment, things weren’t getting any easier; thoughit was here that De Rosario encountered his first real break. His aunt, now well into her 80’s,sensed the young boy’s potential and made sure De Rosario didn’t let it go towaste.
“She always knew when I was about to get intotrouble, she had that instinct,” De Rosario now says with a smile. “She made me start to realize a wholedifferent aspect of life. Therewas a point where I easily could have gone the wrong way.”
While De Rosario was on the right track, thechallenges didn’t end once his playing career had begun. After a two-year stint in Germany’slower leagues, where he says he encountered racism and a coach who literallywould not speak to him, a 21-year-old De Rosario returned to Canadaunemployed. Anxious to stayactive, he took a job in a Toronto health foods store while deciding the nextstep. Turned off by his Europeanexperience, DeRo wondered if a career in soccer was what he wanted afterall.
"I was like man, is this really for me?” De Rosario recalls. “At the end of the day I looked at itand decided that [soccer] is what I love doing. Working 9-to-5 wasn't something I was passionate about, so Ihad to follow my passion and what I believed in."
Within months De Rosario got a call from theA-League’s Richmond Kickers. Eagerto return to soccer, DeRo signed and rewarded the club with a 15-goal outburstin 2000. After that bannercampaign, D.C. United invited the player to El Salvador for a series offriendlies where De Rosario so impressed Head Coach Thomas Rongen that the clubmade plans to select him in what was then called the supplementaldraft. Just before the draft,United assistant Frank Yallop took the top job at San Jose, which sat ahead ofD.C. in the selection order. TheEarthquakes snatched De Rosario and gave the talented playmaker his first shotat top-flight soccer in 2001. Allhe did was reward the franchise – which later moved to Houston – with 81 goalsover eight exceptional seasons. His scoring prowess continued through a two-year stretch in Toronto,where De Rosario averaged 13 tallies a season in front of his hometownfans. Early last year TFC shockinglyshipped their star to New York, where an abundance of attacking talent made DeRosario inexplicably expendable.
Enter D.C. United General Manager DaveKasper.
Keen on adding some punch to an attack that hadplateaued through the early part of the 2011 season, Kasper pulled off one ofthe great personnel moves in MLS history. United sent midfielder Dax McCarty to New York in exchange for aninspired De Rosario. Twice tradedin a two-month span, DeRo again had something to prove.
“He’s always had a little bit of a chip on hisshoulder when he plays,” Kasper said of the six-time MLS Best XIselection. “He’s not afraid ofgetting into challenges. He’s notafraid of the big moment and making the big play in a game. He’s had that since the very firstmoment I saw him.”
On his way to MLS MVP honors, De Rosario scored13 times in 18 appearances for the Black-and-Red. After an offseason of careful coordination with the leagueoffice, D.C. rewarded De Rosario with the contract he had long sought. Announced late last month, the dealwill keep the 2011 MLS Golden Boot winner in Washington for the foreseeablefuture.
“D.C. was willing to step forward and reward me,”said De Rosario. “That to me meansa lot and that was one main reason why I decided to sign, because I really hadthe support and backing of the club.
I was very comfortable with the organizationand we created a great relationship, one that could go far beyond my playingyears."