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Jul 23, 2008

Toronto native De Rosario shines in All-Star homecoming

TORONTO -- No one loves an All-Star happening like Dwayne De Rosario. The supporting evidence just keeps mounting.

De Rosario provided the match winner on a crystal clear night at Exposition Park, as the MLS All-Stars, riding the Houston midfielder's energy and Cuauhtemoc Blanco's productive first half, took down West Ham United, 3-2.

More than just supplying his side with the game winner -- and a fifth consecutive MLS All-Star win against foreign opposition -- the native of Toronto fueled the evening with just a bit more energy and flair. His team needed some of that; the MLS All-Stars dutifully and skillfully moved the ball on the BMO FieldTurf, but were a tad slow to embrace the traditional all-star dash and spirit.

Never mind that the East Londoners took a first-half lead and later had the match tied before De Rosario slammed his 69th-minute penalty kick against the underside of the crossbar. The MLSers were generally in control. Steve Nicol's team ruled the night with a nice, tight display.

"We showed we have good players in our league," Nicol said. "Not only good players, but great players. We played fantastic and I thought we deserved to win."

De Rosario built upon what Blanco had begun to provide after 20 or so rather cautious minutes: a little more zip and zing. "De Ro" entered for Christian Gomez after 59 minutes and immediately began bouncing around the center of the park, taking advantage of West Ham's increasingly heavy legs. The Hammers are just two weeks into a six-week fitness program, and De Rosario punished the East London side for allowing him a little extra space.

De Rosario, the playmaker on Houston's two-time defending champion side, has a history of showy all-star nights. It was his second-half strike that took down Chelsea in Chicago a couple of years back. He was named match MVP for that one.

And "De Ro" was once again large and in charge in Commerce City a year ago, teaming with Ricardo Clark to overwhelm Celtic's pair of central midfielders, who found tough sledding in dealing with the pair's athleticism and pace. Although De Rosario didn't score in that one, he definitely added some sheen to the attack in the 2-0 win over one of Scotland's power clubs.

"I do like the All-Star game," said the man from the Scarborough neighborhood of Toronto, who signed his first pro contract with the Toronto Lynx at age 18. "I don't want to say I like the spotlight, but I don't mind it. I just love the game, and the fact that it was in my town, my home city, I really wanted to impact the game."

Of course, De Rosario wasn't the only player lifting his side before the boisterous BMO fans. Blanco and Gomez ran the show before the break, combining to respond quickly after Dean Ashton's 26th-minute goal on West Ham's first real offensive threat.

Blanco ushered the MLS ahead with a swell little move inside the penalty area, escaping from Scott Parker and then leaving goalkeeper Robert Green no chance with a ball curled clinically inside the far post.

But it was up to De Rosario to move his side ahead once more after West Ham's second-half equalizer. Upon his entrance, De Rosario immediately helped set up a hard-charging David Beckham for a wonderful chance from 16 yards.

De Rosario found Bornstein time and again on the left, and in the 70th minute it was "De Ro" doing the running, as he accepted Juan Pablo Angel's well-weighted through pass. West Ham captain and right back Lucas Neill was in a bad spot to attempt a tackle but had to lunge desperately as De Rosario moved in on Green. Beckham and Donovan have both taken penalty kicks for their teams, but neither even moved toward the penalty area once referee Mauricio Navarro pointed to the spot. It was always going to be De Rosario's spot kick.

"We said we were going to take it seriously and we wanted to win the game, and we did that," Beckham said. "We played together as a team and we won as a team."

Steve Davis is a Dallas-based freelance writer who covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com.

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