Toronto FC has declined its contract option on Dwayne De Rosario, meaning the former Major League Soccer MVP's second playing stint with the club is likely over.
But MLS being MLS, it's hard saying goodbye. The 36-year-old attacking midfielder — TFC's all-time leading scorer — now waits for various league wheels to set in motion starting next week.
A four-hour trade window opens Monday ahead of Wednesday's expansion and waiver draft. The trade window then re-opens ahead of the two stages of the re-entry draft Dec. 12 and 18.
De Rosario could be traded, taken by expansion teams Orlando City SC or New York City FC or any of the other 17 teams in Stage 1 of the ensuing re-entry draft (picking up the option on his current contract). TFC could then offer him another deal. If not, other clubs have another crack at him in Stage 2 (negotiating a new deal) of the re-entry process.
His contract officially runs out Dec. 31, ending a league process with several options for clubs to take players at a lower price tag.
"Obviously we all respect Dwayne to the utmost," Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in an interview Wednesday. "I think he's a consummate professional and he obviously means a lot to Toronto FC and the Canadian soccer community at large.
"At this point in the process, what we're saying is we're not exercising his option but I think it's safe to say that we're looking towards the future and right now he's probably not in the plans. That doesn't mean we're not going to talk to him and figure out what could be best for the club and himself.
"Maybe there's another sort of relationship that we can have with him."
De Rosario's agent declined comment Wednesday other to say that DeRo wants to keep playing "100 per cent."
De Rosario himself has said he is not contemplating retirement.
"I still enjoy and love waking up playing football," De Rosario said in October before the final game of the regular season. "So I definitely want to be here next year and hopefully take this club to where we all want it to go."
The 14-year MLS veteran said when he does call it quits, he would like an opportunity to say goodbye to the fans.
While he awaits his fate, De Rosario will enjoy some good weather. Starting next week, he is taking his De Ro Futbol Clinic to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
De Rosario started just four games this season, with one goal in 19 appearances. He saw little action under former manager Ryan Nelsen but was used more by Greg Vanney after Nelsen was fired at the end of August.
"He (Vanney) talks to me, so that's a positive. So that's different," said De Rosario, making no secret that the lines of communication were not open for him under the former regime.
De Rosario scored 27 goals in 57 games from 2009 to 2011 for Toronto before being shipped out two games into the 2011 season after a contract dispute. He went on to win league MVP honours that season, scoring 16 goals for Toronto, New York and D.C. United.
De Rosario has 104 goals and 77 assists in 343 career MLS regular-season games.
Toronto brought him back last season via the re-entry draft, with his 2014 contract listed at US$173,000. He has also played for San Jose and Houston.
Toronto has also declined options on defender Ryan Richter, midfielder Jeremy Hall and forward Andrew Wiedeman. Forward Bright Dike's contract has expired.
Dike's career never took off in Toronto, largely due to an Achilles injury. Hall, Richter and Wiedeman were popular squad players with Richter loaned out to Ottawa Fury FC for most of this season.
Defenders Bradley Orr and Doneil Henry are also on the move, with their loan spells over. Orr, a versatile veteran who did his best to plug more than a few holes in 2014, returns to Blackburn Rovers while Henry goes to Apollon Limassol in Cyprus, although there is a chance he could stay here.
The Henry loan saga is somewhat bizarre.
The 21-year-old Canadian international defender was sold to the Cypriot club in March/April and then immediately loaned back to Toronto. The MLS franchise did not confirm the sale until October.
"There's a possibility that there could be another loan agreement," said Bezbatchenko. "That hasn't been decided yet."
Talks on that score are planned for the next few weeks.
Striker Jordan Hamilton returns to Toronto after his loan spell with CD Trofense in Portugal.
The club exercised options of goalkeepers Joe Bendik, Chris Konopka and Quillan Roberts, defenders Justin Morrow, Mark Bloom, Nick Hagglund, Warren Creavalle, Ashtone Morgan, Chris Mannella, midfielders Jonathan Osorio, Kyle Bekker, Daniel Lovitz, Marky Delgado, Collen Warner, Manny Aparicio, and forward Luke Moore.
Captain/defender Steven Caldwell, midfielders Jackson, Michael Bradley and Dominic Oduro and forwards Gilberto, Hamilton and Jermain Defoe were already under contract.
Toronto currently has 22 players on its roster.
Bezbatchenko has to submit his protected list Monday for the expansion draft. Each team can protect 11 players with Generation Adidas and homegrown players on the development roster automatically protected. Designated players are not.
Aparicio, Hamilton, Manella, Morgan and Roberts are all homegrown players.
If you lose a player, you can protect another. And teams can lose no more than two in the draft.
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