By IVES GALARCEP and DYLAN BUTLER
Toronto's prodigal son is heading home.
Pulling off the biggest trade in its young history, Toronto FC has landed Canadian national team star and four-time MLS Cup champion Dwayne DeRosario in a trade from the Houston Dynamo. TFC acquired DeRosario from Houston for defender Julius James and an allocation sources are putting at between the $150K and $175K range (slightly more than I first reported). The teams finalized the deal on Friday.
The trade brings DeRosario back to Canada as a professional player for the first time since he played for the Toronto Lynx in 1997. In the 11 years since, DeRosario has established himself as one of the best big-game players in MLS, winning four league titles and earning MLS Cup MVP honors two times with San Jose (2001) and the Dynamo (2007).
According to sources with knowledge of the deal, DeRosario will not take up Toronto FC's designated player slot but is expected to sign a new contract which will make him a maximum non-DP salary of around $400K a season.
A native of the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, DeRosario steps into a Toronto FC midfield that already boasts Carl Robinson and Amado Guevara. he could play centrally with those two, or be slotted on the left flank.
The deal is a steal for Toronto FC considering TFC did not have to give up any of its three first-round draft picks in what most experts consider a strong and deep draft. Toronto also wasn't forced to trade a maximum allocation of $300,000. In fact, TFC still has approximately $800,000 in allocation funds as well as its designated player slot, which the club is expected to use to sign a marquee foward for next season.
“Dwayne is a player we’ve admired for quite some time. When the chance came to work with Houston to get this deal, we were obviously very happy,” TFC director of soccer Mo Johnston said in a team-released statement. “He’s a wonderful talent and I hope all of our supporters are as excited as we are that Dwayne is now a member of Toronto FC."
The trade looks like a pretty bad one for Houston on the surface, but there is logic behind the maneuver. With Bobby Boswell a very real candidate to leave now that he is out of contract, the Dynamo desperately needed a central defender to replace him and James was regarded as the best defender in the 2008 MLS Draft. James provides some speed and athleticism to a back-line that was exposed as slow in the MLS playoffs.
Perhaps more importantly, dealing DeRosario (Houston's highest-paid player in 2008 at just under $325K) and acquiring allocation money could also pave the way for the Dynamo to sign a Designated Player, most likely at the striker position, with Stuart Holden sliding into DeRosario's starting central midfield role. In fact, the Dynamo will create close to $600,000 in cap space with the deal, meaning it can fit in a designated player and still have $200,000 to sign or trade for another player as well as provide raises for some of its current players.
How can the Dynamo win this trade? If Houston brings in an impact designated player, Holden flourishes as the team's playmaker, and James develops into a standout defender, the Dynamo will have revamped an aging team that needed an infusion of talent.
Even if all that happens, Toronto isn't likely to regret dealing for DeRosario, a fan favorite in Toronto and the type of clutch veteran leader who can help steer the club to its first playoff appearance and beyond.
What do you think of the trade? Did Toronto FC get away with a steal? Think Houston sold DeRosario too cheaply? Do you see the Dynamo coming out ahead on the deal? Do you see Toronto FC being a major force in 2009? Do you like the idea of DeRosario wearing red?
Share your thoughts below.