Just two games into TFC’s fifth season, the 32-year-old attacking midfielder was traded to the New York Red Bulls for Cameroonian Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman, and a first-round choice in the MLS SuperDraft.
The team loses not only their all-time leading scorer in Scarborough native De Rosario, but a recognizable face on a team that sits fourth in the Toronto sports hierarchy.
“It was incumbent upon the ownership to find a way to keep this guy in Toronto, because he was a guy you could sell to the public,” Toronto Sun sports columnist Steve Simmons said in an interview. “He was a name people knew.
“I think it’s a huge mistake if you lose a ‘name guy’ in that circumstance, and that’s what happened here.”
De Rosario was one of the few players for the franchise, if not the only one, a casual fan might recognize.
With TFC lowballing their best player in their most recent contract offer, De Rosario told media after the trade he felt it was time to move on. He had asked for a trade when the club wouldn’t make him a designated player.
Many fans have complained the trade is a step backward for a team still looking for its first playoff berth.
More than that, De Rosario was a player that young Toronto soccer players could look up to, a role model for a sport in need of one.
“De Rosario’s departure from TFC had a more detrimental effect on the fans of the sport than even the departure of [Mats] Sundin from the Leafs,” said University of Toronto soccer player Harenssan Kandiah.
“De Rosario is arguably the greatest Canadian soccer player of this generation and he was in his prime of his career. I’m not surprised that many people are pissed about his departure.”
The move wouldn’t have as much impact if TFC were a better team. Losing their clutch scorer foreshadows a trying season for the club.
“Losing these idols will certainly decrease the interest towards the club,” Scarborough recreational soccer player Julian Giorla said.
“If the club was more established, this wouldn’t be as big of a problem.”
Whatever happens now, TFC must now focus on the present, and that is to win as many games as possible to keep a wavering fan base happy.
In new acquisition Tchani, the club has a 21-year-old professional soccer player making an impact at a young age. The 2010 second overall pick from the SuperDraft could be a major piece of the puzzle going forward, and possibly the new idol fans crave.
Add another first round pick, and TFC has made positive moves towards the club’s future.
Until that time, TFC needs to find a way to put the ball in the net, arguably what they’ll miss most from De Rosario’s departure.
“He brings a lot of excitement and skill to the game, and it’s a joy to watch as a fan,” Kandiah said.
“Soccer fans in Toronto will definitely miss him.”