Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yes DeRo Can?

Barack Obama’s talk of change has consumed the masses. Its spread and power has stemmed heavily from its ambiguity. Change can mean anything; it translates into whatever one wants it to, and usually evokes a strong sensation of optimism which is so often vacant in the lives of many. To be cynical has been vogue for so long, whether it was towards politics, sports, or life in general. This continued criticism could be seen as the antidote that finally swung the pendulum back to the side of optimism, as critique often leads to a need for one to fix their flaws. Now, apply the journey of this pendulum to your feelings towards Toronto FC. After two years of seemingly perpetual cynicism, where does your pendulum rest?

When Toronto FC was founded in 2006, fans, media members, and even Mo Johnston put together wish lists of players who they wanted on their club. One player seemed to consistently fall onto every list, Dwayne De Rosario. Watching from a distance, fans had yearned for the day when De Rosario would finally come home and slip the red, white and gray kit over whatever new hairstyle he had chosen. De Rosario is a deft player, who has the ability to influence a game like few players in the league. Many will argue that he embodied exactly what was so dynamic about the Dynamo throughout the past three years. Then, without any warning, there was no more need for this desire; he was a member of the Reds…well kind of.

Following the announcement of the trade was a secretive and worrying process, in which De Rosario and Toronto FC remained relatively hushed, as they were both hesitant to provide any news on the acquisition. The rumour mill churned, spitting out various scenarios which never seemed to favour the Reds, leaving fans irritated. Then, early last week, news finally surfaced that De Rosario was officially a long term member of Toronto FC. On Friday afternoon, De Rosario, hidden in the catacombs of the ACC, put pen to paper on a four year deal. Fans across the city were once again euphoric about the prospects for their club in 2009. And as he emerged from behind a makeshift press conference desk, which had been set up on the main concourse level of the ACC following the official press conference, over a hundred fans erupted into chant. This was arguably the biggest moment in club history. Change had come to Toronto FC, and the pendulum had swung, as hope had been injected into the lives of fans across the country.

De Ro, as he’s affectionately known by fans across the continent, brings to Toronto something that it has blatantly lacked over the previous two seasons, a superstar. His credentials are among the best in the league, as he has achieved success at both the club and international level. He also gives the club a surefire representative for everything that is soccer in Toronto. He has toiled through the Toronto youth systems to become one of the best players the country has ever produced. This makes De Rosario not only a superstar, but a relatable superstar. The power of De Ro can be summed up by the optimism that he provides to both fans of Toronto FC, and those children who had always searched for a local soccer hero to emulate. The significance of both is integral to the success of Toronto FC both now, and in the future. Just like the election Barack Obama, Dwayne De Rosario seems to have arrived just in time to bring much needed change and hope to a club that was seemingly heading nowhere.

As with Barack Obama, the ultimate contribution that De Rosario will ultimately make is still in question. Hope can obviously be crushed within a second. One president does not make a country, and one player does not make a team. It will definitely take a strong group of players around De Ro to solidify the Reds as a contender past the month of July. Many, however, are salivating at the potential lineup that may march out come the start of the season. The evident strength of the club lies in its midfield, and here is how it should align. Carl Robinson will once again slot in as Toronto’s holding midfielder; there should be no question about this. Rohan Ricketts will patrol the right flank, where he was one of the Reds most influential players last season. Johann Smith will be placed on the left, where he will be able to cause havoc for defenders with his combination of both pace and skill. Just to expand on Johann, many criticized him last season, and justifiably so, for his inconsistency and extravagantly wasteful play with the ball at his feet. Players, however, grow; and there should be a significant amount of confidence in his ability to put it all together and become a star for Toronto FC. Is there evidence? No, not really, just call it a confident hunch. Maybe I’ve caught hope fever too. Then, up front both Amado Guevara and Dwayne De Rosario will play side by side behind a lone striker. Both players are versatile enough to track back and play a more central role if need be, but having two of the leagues most gifted attacking players playing behind either Pablo Vitti (who’s arrival is nothing close to imminent) or Chad Barrett doesn’t bring to mind a lack of scoring power. In fact, it leads to the thought of Toronto becoming one of the better offensive teams in the league.

Even though De Rosario solidifies Toronto’s attack, there should still be question as to whether or not it will compensate for the clubs glaring weakness. The Reds are closer to feeble than anything else at the back, and De Ro can’t help there. One might compare Toronto’s backline to a defective Oreo. Jim Brennan and Marvell Wynne act as the tasty cookies, as they offer Toronto two of the better fullbacks in the league, both bringing skill and passion to the pitch every game. Yet if one is to look in the middle of this Oreo, well, there’s no icing, or central defenders. This means that the Oreo sucks. Toronto is in dire need of one, if not two solid defenders. One should do it, as a reliable defender should allow Tyrone Marshall to play a more static and therefore effective game. Mo Johnston vaguely referenced as a “lad from England” as our elusive central defender at the recent De Rosario press conference; however it is virtually impossible to be hopeful following this hazy announcement from Johnston. And until a central defender arrives in Toronto who will ensure stability at the back, it seems ridiculous to be absolutely confident about the clubs future. Just as with the election of Barack Obama, where Americans must be guarded in their optimism, Toronto FC fans must be careful when it comes to the arrival of Dwayne De Rosario. He has brought much needed change to a previously struggling club, however, like Obama, he is not a saviour. Therefore, the pendulum rests in a relative state of uncertainty.