- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dwayne De Rosario has wasted no time showing D.C. United why he is one of the most prolific attacking players in MLS history.

With a no-look pass, an aggressive run into the box and a one-time shot that curled into the upper corner, the 33-year-old put his renowned goal-scoring potency on full display Saturday at San Jose. That exquisitely executed give-and-go in the 66th minute was his second strike in United’s 2-0 win, and his third tally in five games since joining D.C. in late June.

Of course, what De Rosario is capable of on the field never has been in question. A technically gifted playmaker with a cannon of a right foot and a knack for coming through in the clutch, the Canada national team veteran is a six-time All-Star and two-time MLS Cup MVP.

“He’s a big-moment guy,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “When the lights come on, you need guys who want to be a big part of it and have success. And he’s a winner.”

But why is such a player plying his trade for his third team this year? It’s a pertinent question as United prepare for Saturday’s match at RFK Stadium against Toronto FC, the club De Rosario began his 2011 campaign with in March.

After winning four MLS Cups in eight years with the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, the Ontario native was traded to Toronto before the 2009 season. It seemed like an ideal fit — Toronto craved a marquee star, and the hometown hero more than fit the bill.

Statistically, De Rosario’s two full seasons in Toronto were the best of his career: 11 goals and six assists in 2009, and 15 goals and three assists the following year. Those gaudy numbers, however, were ultimately what created the rift that facilitated De Rosario’s exit.

Despite his production, De Rosario had a significantly lower salary than what Toronto was shelling out for less-efficient designated players Julian de Guzman and Mista, and the team wasn’t willing to up his pay to their level. After scoring a goal toward the end of last season, De Rosario shined a bright light on that matter by pretending to sign a check during his celebration.

He might as well have been writing on the wall. When the campaign ended, he arranged a tryout with Scottish powerhouse Celtic - an audition that was news to the Toronto brass, which promptly denied Celtic’s request for a loan deal.

The tumultuous relationship ended April 1 with a trade to the Red Bulls, where he was widely seen as the missing piece of New York’s championship puzzle.

“I really enjoyed playing in front of great fans [in Toronto],” De Rosario said. “I wish I could say the same on the other side of things in terms of the management, but it is what it is.”

He never really found a rhythm with the Red Bulls, though, getting lost in the shuffle amid their collection of big-name attacking talents. Less than three months later, he was shipped again — this time to United for midfielder Dax McCarty.

Needless to say, it’s been a trying year for De Rosario. But he always knows he can fall back on a career playing the game he loves for comfort.

“When you have to relocate, I think that’s the hardest part,” De Rosario said. “Football is where you get [things] off you chest and off your mind, so playing is the enjoyment part.”

With D.C., it would appear he has finally found a stable home. De Rosario added an instant spark with a first-half assist in his debut against Philadelphia. A week later, he scored his first goal for United at New York.

Whether playing out of central midfield or in a withdrawn striker role, De Rosario has been a constant threat, helping alleviate the pressure from starting forwards Josh Wolff and Charlie Davies.

“For guys like Wolffy and I, it’s a dream for a player like that to come to our team,” Davies said. “He’s a guy who has to make defenders stay honest because he can strike balls from distance, he can score goals.”

It also hasn’t taken long for De Rosario to assume a leadership role with United, with Olsen handing him the captain’s armband for two contests already.

“It’s known what he’s done around the league,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “He’s a player that changes games. He’s a player that will coach you on the field and talk you through things.”

One caveat to United’s acquisition of De Rosario was his contract that expires at season’s end. If recent history is any indicator, he could be targeting a hefty sum.

De Rosario said he would like to set up a long-term residence in the nation’s capital, where his MLS career unofficially started a decade ago when he joined United for a 2001 preseason trip to El Salvador before signing with San Jose.

As he puts it, he has come “full circle.”

“I think the most important thing for any professional athlete,” De Rosario said, “is to be settled and to have peace of mind when you’re playing and know you have a future somewhere.”

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