Dwayne De Rosario sees a little bit of himself in Canada’s two brightest men’s soccer stars.
Alphonso Davies, the 19-year-old who just won a Champions League title as a starter for Bayern Munich, was born in a Ghana refugee camp to Liberian parents before moving to Edmonton at five years old.
Jonathan David, the 20-year-old who just signed with Ligue 1 club Lille on a record transfer fee, was born to Haitian parents and moved to Ottawa when he was six.
De Rosario, the 42-year-old who owns Canada’s men’s national team all-time scoring record, grew up in Scarborough, Ont., the son of Guyanese parents.
“It’s a true reflection on Canada as a whole. The reason I say that is because my family left Guyana to come here to a better life and more opportunity and I think I’ve capitalized on that,” said De Rosario.
“If you look at Alphonso Davies’ story, the same thing. His parents left Africa in a tough situation, came to Canada for more opportunity and Alphonso definitely capitalized on that. And that’s the beauty of sport.”
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De Rosario spoke to CBC Sports on Wednesday ahead of his appearance at the Allstate Soccer Show, a free online event Sunday in support of his DeRo Foundation, which aims to create a healthy soccer environment for the underprivileged.
The former attacker scored his record 22 goals over 81 games with the national team between 1998 and 2015.
Davies has five markers over 17 international appearances, while David already owns 11 goals over just 12 caps.
“It’s bound to get broken, just like I broke it before. And I’m proud of both of them really. I mean, it’s bigger than them,” said De Rosario.
“Who would do it first would likely be Jonathan David before Alphonso. Especially when you look at some of the teams they’re playing now, you could rack up some nice goals. I wish I could have played against some of those teams.”
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Even if Davies and David are unable to topple De Rosario’s goals mark, the young Canadians are already on track to do one thing their predecessor never did: play in a World Cup. Canada will earn automatic qualification in 2026 as a host alongside Mexico and the U.S.
De Rosario says the two are enough to help Canada make noise on the international stage, but it’ll take more than just two special players to have a real impact.
“They’re going to get to experience what it’s like to play in Central America and play in those very difficult environments. That’s not easy. Two players can’t do it. You need the whole team. You need a little bit of luck. You need a you need a lot of things to go your way.”
Both players were on the roster in November when Canada beat the U.S. for the first time in 34 years.
The 2026 tournament isn’t even the next World Cup – that would be 2022 in Qatar. Qualifying for 2022 continues in October, where Canada must win a grouping with four much lower ranked teams. A win there would put Canada in a home-and-home likely against Haiti, where it would require another victory to reach the final round along with Mexico, the U.S., Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras and two other to-be-determined teams. In that round, a top-four finish is required just to have a shot at qualifying.
All of that to say: it won’t be easy.
“If we could qualify for 2022 I think it would be making a huge statement. I think we had – well, I’ve always thought we’ve had the team. We just really need to create the resources for them to succeed at all costs,” said De Rosario.
Still, Davies and David may already be making their mark in other ways. For Davies, it’s a Champions League title and a semifinal victory that could run Lionel Messi out of Barcelona.
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“He’s opening a lot of doors for other young Canadians that when people think of Canada Soccer in the football world outside of North America they don’t really think of it as a football country,” said De Rosario.
On the pitch, De Rosario says he’s impressed, like most, with Davies’ blinding speed, but also his ball control while moving faster than anyone else.
“I think that’s definitely his trademark right now is in how quick he is on the dribble and using his pace to get by players and on the defensive side to recover. He’s really a two-way player.”
For De Rosario, Davies’ potential is unlimited.
“He could go anywhere. He’s, in my humble opinion, one of the best fullbacks in the world right now in Europe. … So to have a Canadian like that and to have that kind of discussions in a player in that position, it’s a huge honour and testament to his hard work.”
As for David, it’s the goal-scoring that shines brightest as the Ottawa native continues bucking odds at each stop.
“No one really had him on their radar. He went and went to Europe and a Belgian team took him up and he went to Ghent and then all of a sudden he gets sold on a record-breaking deal to Lille.”
The increased opportunity for Davies and David could just be the start of something even bigger for Canadian men’s soccer.