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DeRo – The Right Trade at the Right Time


In 2046, when the history of the first 50 years of the MLS is published, I have no doubt that Dwayne De Rosario will be highlighted as one of the top players of the league’s first 20 years of existence.

After spending time with the Toronto Lynx, FSV Zwickau, and the Richmond Kickers, in 2001 De Rosario was brought to the San Jose Earthquakes by Coach Frankie Yallop, which is not surprising since, with his ties to Canada, Yallop had to be aware of the talent level of this young Canadian of Guyanese descent. In his first year in MLS, De Rosario started 11 games, played in 21 matches, scored 5 goals, and picked up 4 assists, and he was the MVP of the 2001 MLS Cup, which the Quakes won. Over the next few years, De Rosario proved a steady role player for the Quakes, including his recovery from an ACL injury in 2003, but he was always in the shadow of the team’s star player, Landon Donovan.

Donovan parted ways with the Quakes after the 2004 MLS season, opening the door for De Rosario to become a leader in San Jose’s midfield. The 2005 season proved to be a stand out year for De Rosario who scored 9 goals and had 13 assists in 28 matches. Despite winning the Supporters Shield in 2005, the Quakes made an early exit from the MLS playoffs and then learned that they were moving to Houston, Texas for the 2006 season.

The disappointments of the 2005 season and the move from San Jose to Houston apparently had no impact on De Rosario, who had a better season in 2006 then he did in 2005. With 29 game starts and 30 games played, De Rosario picked up 11 goals and 5 assists in the Dynamo’s inaugural season. Additionally, he not only played the entire All-Star game against Chelsea, but he scored the game winning goal for the US side. Finally, he was integral part of the Houston Dynamo victory over the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup, bringing the City of Houston it’s first championship since the Houston Comets won 4 championships between 1997 and 2000.

The 2007 season saw a drop in De Rosario’s stats as he only scored 6 goals and picked up 4 assists. Despite the drop in numbers, De Rosario scored the winning goal for the Dynamo in the 2007 MLS Cup, again beating the Revolution, and become the first MLS player to pick up two MLS Cup MVP honors.

The Dynamo’s 2008 season opened with very high expectations, would the Houston franchise become a dynasty by winning three MLS Cups in a row? In the end, De Rosario managed 7 goals and only 2 assists, while the Dynamo were knocked out of the MLS Play-Offs in the first round by Red Bull New York.

For 8 seasons, Dwayne De Rosario was an integral part of the San Jose Earthquakes/Houston Dynamo franchise. In that time he picked up 4 MLS Cups and two MLS Cup MVP honors. As recently as this past summer, some commentators stated that De Rosario was the best player in the MLS. And as the 2008 season gave way to the post season, Houston Dynamo fans could sleep well at night knowing that De Rosario was on their team.

But then reality set in and the Houston Dynamo announced that they were sending De Rosario back to his homeland to play for Toronto FC, who joined the MLS in 2007. In a sense this was a surprise move, at the end of the 2008 season nobody expected to see De Rosario leave Houston before the 2009 season. But, on the other hand, this was not a surprise move because De Rosario, who grew up in a suburb of Toronto, had expressed a strong interest in playing for Toronto FC.

In light of the Dynamo’s lackluster performance against Atlante in the CONCACAF Champions League, there has been some hand wringing and teeth gnashing about whether the Dynamo should have traded De Rosario to Toronto. Not to be contrarian or anything, but it seems to me that the De Rosario trade was the right trade at the right time for the Dynamo.

As indicated by the discussion above, it appears that De Rosario may have reached his scoring peak in the MLS. The numbers indicate that De Rosario will be a less then 10 goal per season player for here on out. Despite the leadership skills he brings to the pitch, is it in the Dynamo’s best interest to pay over $300,000.00 a year to a player that scores less then 10 goals a season and has suffered a big drop off in assists?

Speaking of De Rosario’s contract, it was set to expire in 2010, so the time was right for the Dynamo to trade De Rosario to Toronto while they could still get some value for him. In the trade, the Dynamo picked up young defender Julius James and some allocation money. James, who seems to have some good skill sets, has had a rough start with the Dynamo, but so did Bobby Boswell who has turned out to be an integral part of the Dynamo defense.

More importantly, it appears that the Dynamo are seriously interested in acquiring a designated player, something that could not be achieved with De Rosario’s contract on the books. As discussed here previously, the Dynamo made a serious effort to sign Omar Bravo. While that effort failed, I expect that the Dynamo will move quietly and patiently in their search for a designated player and such a signing will occur before the 2009 season is over.

Finally, the trade made sense because the Dynamo sent De Rosario to an Eastern squad that plays on artificial turf. Of all the teams in the MLS, Toronto is a club that the Dynamo do not need to consider a serious threat. Finally, the Dynamo could breathe easy because the heir apparent to De Rosario is Stuart Holden, a native of Scotland who grew up in the Sugar Land suburb of Houston.

The transition from the De Rosario era to the non-De Rosario era might not be the smoothest or easiest for the Dynamo. But the Houston Dynamo have shown an ability to ride the waves of change, and it’s unlikely that the departure of De Rosario will have a major impact on the Dynamo’s performance in the 2009 MLS Season.

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  1. Brian Zygo

    April 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm


    I invite you to listen to this week’s episode of World Soccer Wrap, in which you will hear Dominic Kinnear address this very issue.

  2. Colman O'Meara

    April 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    How does the winless Dynamo feel about this trade right now?

  3. joel es latest soccer news

    March 17, 2009 at 9:46 am

    De Ro could have a great year with such a tremendous midfield and forwards. Their defense still raises questions. Latest Soccer News

  4. D.S.

    March 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I am a huge fan of DeRo, from his SJ days. I absolutely love the energy he brings to the game, his flair for the dramatic (two GOY/GOY-Finalists, MLS Cup MVP awards, unbelievably wild red cards, veganism, etc.), and the reliability he brings with him. However, I must call you out on these sentences:

    DeRo has won four titles, and has been the best player on all four of those teams. (He was more instrumental than Donovan in 2001 and by 2003 was actually a more complete player than Landon)

    DeRo was nowhere near to being the best player on the 2001 and 2003 San Jose teams – 2001 was all Landon Donovan, DeRo just happened to score the Cup-winning goal, and in 2003 he missed most of the season with a torn LCL, and was a bit-part player at best when he was back (I should know, I watched numerous Quakes games that year) — even in the MLS Cup final, he had an assist coming on as a late-game sub in a match that was essentially over by then. In 2001-03, DeRo was an exciting player to watch, to be sure, but his decision-making skills were quite poor on the field — he would dribble pointlessly into a crowd of three defenders and turn the ball over.

    2004 and 2005 were entirely different chapters in DeRo’s career — the strong CM tandem of Ronnie Ekelund and Richard Mulrooney were gone, and Dom Kinnear thrust him into the attacking CM spot, realizing that he was the best “pure talent” he had on his roster — and there was no looking back! The lineup was such an unpredictable thing from week to week — he had tried Clark at right fullback, DeRo as a forward option alongside Ching, etc., before settling on DeRo at attacking CM and Clark as DM. The rediscovery of DeRo was part DeRo’s hard work, attitude, and technical skill, and part Kinnear’s brilliance.

    Like I said, I think DeRo is one of the top-3 players in MLS, and have already penciled in the TFC game at Buckshaw to go to, BUT DeRo was not at all special in 2001 and 2003.

  5. alex

    March 16, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I’ll wait on see on the Dero half of this, but i can tell you after watching Julius James last year I’d be suprized if he’s still in the league after very long. Watching that guy dribble the ball you’d think it was square. Great in the air, zero technical ability or understanding of where to be positionally.

  6. meBrian

    March 16, 2009 at 10:27 am

    The addition of one man will not make Toronto a great team, and the loss of one man will not rule out Houston’s chance to seize the cup this year.

    There were many good reasons for Houston to let DeRo go. Perhaps the biggest one was that he wanted to go. Dominic has proven his willingness to let players go at the players request (Jaqua, Cochran), and that reflects well on his confidence in his team and their ability to step up and move forward.

    While James does not yet have my full confidence, I continue to believe that Dom can bring even marginal ability and make it fit in his system with success.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    March 16, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Wow, I hope you are right but trading arguably the most productive player in the history of the league for little in return other than cap space is very risky.

    DeRo has won four titles, and has been the best player on all four of those teams. (He was more instrumental than Donovan in 2001 and by 2003 was actually a more complete player than Landon)

    I happen to think Julius James is a marginal USL player, and not an MLS caliber player. Perhaps he will prove differently this season playing for admittedly the best manager in MLS.

    I guess I am being less than diplomatic when I say, I hated this trade for Houston and believe they have no shot at a title or even winning the West because of it.

  8. Colman O'Meara

    March 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Not sure I agree with your view of the trade.

    1. Toronto has a shocking defense. It was the weakness of their squad last year, and will continue to be the weakness in 2009. However, Julius James was not able to break into the starting lineup throughout the year. His rough start with the Dynamo is not a fluke – it is indicative of his abilities. Houston got the wool pulled over their eyes in this trade.
    2. I think it’s too early to say DeRo is on the decline. His production went down as a result of having Holden on his team – his output was split over two players. The fact that he scored in each of TFC’s three games in Charleston (vs. the Charleston Battery, DCU, and RSL) supports this notion.

    I guess we can judge as the season goes on, but for now, this looks like a horrid move by the Dynamo.

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