UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – As he walked off the field following New York Red Bulls training on Tuesday morning, Dwayne De Rosario sported a pair of cleats emblazoned with the Canadian flag.
The irony of the fashion statement is that De Rosario is now at the center of a tug-of-war between club and country for his services this summer, which begs the question: Though he's wearing Canada on his feet, will he be wearing that flag over his heart during next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup?
“I 100 percent want to play for Canada,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com. “I would definitely like to play for my country this summer.”
De Rosario's comments contradict those by New York head coach Hans Backe, who told the media on Monday that he thought De Rosario would skip the biennual tournament.
“I think he has turned that down," Backe told the New York Post. "I would be very surprised if he went for the national team. You never know, but I’m fairly sure we will have him. I don’t think he has played [much] the last two years for them. I hope [we’ll have him]. Otherwise I will be disappointed.’’
That doesn’t seem to be De Rosario’s mind set, though, as the Canadian international spoke candidly with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday about the issue.
“Obviously there is a concern, and this comes down to club vs. country," De Rosario said. "It is something I need to talk about with the federation, hear what they have to say and what they want me to do. This summer’s Gold Cup is an important one for Canada, but it is also an important time here for me at New York.”
[inline_node:335371]The De Rosario incident is similar to when Estonian international Joel Lindpere, a regular for his country, turned down opportunities with his national team last summer to play with his MLS club.
Two of De Rosario's teammates, Norwegian Jan Gunnar Solli and Finn Teemu Tainio, have both indicated they will retire from international play due to travel concerns.
Backe’s comments on Monday indicated that he thought De Rosario would make a similar decision.
Following Monday's comments, Backe told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday that he anticipates missing several players for the Gold Cup. Those likely to play at the tournament include central defenders Tim Ream (USA) and Rafa Márquez (Mexico), left back Roy Miller (Costa Rica), midfielder Dane Richards (Jamaica) and forward Juan Agudelo (USA).
De Rosario could be added to that list.
“I haven’t checked yet,” Backe said. “I haven’t talked with him yet. He probably will be out.”
Canada has not yet released a roster for the Gold Cup, but given the next round of World Cup qualification is around the corner and that the winner of the tournament goes on to participate in the 2013 Confederations Cup, the Canadians will likely take a full-strength squad to the tournament.
De Rosario would be a large part of that squad although he has not yet talked with anyone from the federation about his participation in the tournament. However, Canada head coach Stephen Hart told media on Tuesday that De Rosario is in his plans.
“We have sent out our invitations and we believe Dwayne is keen to play at the Gold Cup,” Hart told reporters in a conference call. “I will be chatting with him and [hope to] hear his take on this. I want to talk to Dwayne about [Backe's] comments and we’ll go from there.”
De Rosario, who assisted on Luke Rodgers’ goal in the Red Bulls' 1-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City last weekend, has represented Canada 55 times.
“Everyone wants to represent their country,” De Rosario said. “It is something you want to do but I will need to sit down, talk about it and see what is best for me, for the Canadian team as well as New York. I will just have to decide from there.”