As fans of D.C. United, we should all be worried.
Worried that our team won’t have one of the top scoring offenses in the league, like it was for stretches of the 2011 season. Worried that United will fall short of the playoffs once again. Worried because so much of our hope for 2012 rests on the shoulders of one man. And that man is 33 years old. And that man has a history of being disgruntled when he’s unhappy with his contract situation.
Dwayne De Rosario had the best year of his career in 2011. He also had the best year of any player in MLS, rightfully earning a league MVP award for his prolific production of 16 goals and 12 assists. If you’ve been keeping up with the comments in our De Rosario primer from Sunday, then you already know what I’m going to say. His production is bound to drop off at some point. Just like it did for Jaime Moreno. Hard as it may be to say anything negative about the Godfather Of Goals, he probably hung around one year too long, in hindsight. United won’t want that to happen with their new star attacker. De Rosario hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, but we have to acknowledge that it’s physiologically likely that he eventually will. It might not be this year. It might not even be next year. But it’s going to happen. And without any other consistent goal scorers on United’s roster, this will be a problem for us.
De Rosario is under contract with MLS for the 2012 season. If nothing changes, he’ll be out of contract at year’s end. Will the player grow more and more unhappy throughout the year if his contract remains unsettled? Will his unhappiness be reflected in his play on the field? Or in his leadership in the locker room?
I’m inclined to be the first to start the anti-DeRo movement in D.C. Mostly just because I think it might be a movement that the majority of United fans want to be a part of at some point within the next 18 months. And I’m somewhat of a pioneer.
The anti-DeRo movement is something that Toronto FC fans are intimately familiar with. He was a polarizing figure there late in 2010 and early in 2011, publicly expressing his dissatisfaction with his contract, and becoming a distraction to the team off the field. After the 2010 season, he accepted a trial with Celtic in Scotland apparently without telling his bosses at TFC. That’s uncouth in any profession. When De Rosario was traded to the New York Red Bulls, TFC fans didn’t cry. They were glad to see the drama finally put in the rear. They were happy to move on without him.
In the linked Waking The Red story above, Duncan Fletcher suggests that both TFC and the Canadian National Team actually perform better without De Rosario. Turns out he may have been right, at least by one measure. Toronto scored more goals in 2011 than they did in 2010. That’s not what’s the most important here though. The bigger concern for me is that De Rosario hasn’t made the MLS playoffs since 2008. It’s nice that he’s won four MLS Cups, but that seems like a lifetime ago. How long should he still be considered "a winner?"
De Rosario continues to express his frustration with his contract. "I’m not really too pleased that I’m in this position right now," he told Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner earlier this month. We’re certainly hoping that he won’t be a distraction at all this season. United has been clear in stating that the team wants De Rosario to be here for the long-term, but is also deferring to the league when addressing the lack of progress in contract negotiations. Will we have to endure the check signing goal celebration at some point this season? I hope not. That would give the anti-DeRo movement some strength.
Right now, the anti-DeRo movement is quiet. Actually, it’s non-existent. While I’ll undoubtedly proclaim to be the founder of the movement if things do go wrong in the DCU-DeRo partnership, I’m not even sure I’m a member of it at this moment. In fact, I know I’m not. De Rosario did things for this team last year that we’ve never seen done before. But will he continue to do that? And how long will we want him in D.C. if he doesn’t?