Danny Dichio‘s retirement last Wednesday meant emotions ran high during the 24th minute of the first half during Toronto FC’s 3-2 win against the Colorado Rapids yesterday at BMO Field. It was the 24th minute when Dichio scored Toronto FC’s first ever club goal against the Chicago Fire on May 13th 2007, and fans in the south stand have chanted his name at the same minute of play at every home game ever since.
Still, Dichio wouldn’t have been accorded the honour had he, like many other MLS overseas players who have come here in the twilight of their careers, slowly faded into obscurity. Danny Dichio’s success (he is Toronto FC’s all-time high scorer despite missing a slew of games to injury) was the exception that proved the rule; TFC’s troubles over the past three seasons can be in part attributed to a record buying ill-adjusted players who have fallen out of the European merry-go-round. Players like Laurent Robert, Rohan Ricketts and Collin Samuel arrived with great fanfare only to be dropped quietly at the slow end of the news cycle. And they are not alone in Major League Soccer.
That’s why Dichio’s short time in MLS is a model for aging or out-of-favour players planning on a move to North America. His success with Toronto FC grew from his dedication to the organization and the city. Dichio and his family got immediately involved in communities on and off the field. He was an active participant in local charities. He was skilled at ingratiating himself with club supporters, and he spoke frequently about staying on with the coaching staff. But perhaps most importantly, signaling that Toronto would be Més Que un Club, Dichio became a permanent resident of Canada.
Perhaps in the spirit of Dichio, owners and general managers in MLS might look to asking overseas players not just to join a club, but join a community, a city, a region, a country. Goodness knows we can do better than paying them 100 million dollars only to lend them out on loan to AC Milan for half the year.
- The Boston Examiner interviews the head of a New England Revolution Hispanic supporters group to find out why the club garners so few Hispanic fans. The answers are a tad depressing.
- Manchester City don’t blink when Arsenal equalize and go on to win 4-2 leading Paul Wilson to compare Mark Hughes to Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester City finished tenth last year under Hughes, who was heavily slated for the axe before the start of the season. That was of course before Tevez, Barry and Adebayor. Simon Kuper laughs and laughs.
- American MLS players on the US national squad might think of posting this article up in the dressing room if they qualify for South Africa 2010: Fabio Capello urges David Beckham to get the hell out of MLS and back to Europe if he wants to be ready for success at next summer’s World Cup. *cough* Confederations Cup *cough*
- Bolton fans might remember Johann Smith. So will Toronto FC fans. Now it’s Croatia’s NJ Rijeka’s turn.
- Iain Plenderleith counters the conventional wisdom which holds that Landon Donovan is a) overrated and b) incapable of playing in Europe. Maybe MLS is damn lucky to have him.
- Paul Hayward wonders allowed about what we’ve all been too scared to ask: Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic worth 66 million Euros?