Houston Dynamo players will tell you that Dwayne De Rosario rarely is seen without a set of high-tech headphones slung around his neck.
According to the midfielder, the music that pumps through them is a major reason why there may be something else placed around his neck in two months time – another MLS Cup winner's medal.
The 29-year-old Canadian insists that his listening habits are not simply a relaxation or motivational tool but rather an integral part of his game. As the heartbeat of the defending MLS champion Dynamo, De Rosario shoulders the responsibility for getting his teammates in sync. He firmly believes that the rhythm developed by his lifelong love of music has a positive effect on his performances.
"Music is a very important part of my game and my way of living," De Rosario said. "My music has a lot of rhythm, and I implement that into the way I play.
"My style of play – attacking – you have to be very creative (and) spontaneous, and you have to change direction on a dime. Quick thinking and balance … all those things come into play."
De Rosario's incorporation of music into soccer began as a youngster in Toronto when his father extolled the virtues of sequential footwork and flowing movement while coaching his junior team.
What at first "seemed a bit weird" soon became second nature and since has evolved into the style that makes De Rosario one of the most productive players in MLS.
De Rosario listens to everything from dub, reggae, house, conscious rap, R&B, soca and calypso, and that appetite for music can have him spend up to seven hours mixing beats of his own on a set of turntables. That passion is matched by his desire for another long run in the postseason.
The Dynamo overcame a difficult start to the season by going undefeated in June and became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. While the August form of D.C. United was exceptional, many observers feel Houston is playing some of the best soccer in the country.
As the reigning champs, the Dynamo inevitably will have a target on their backs in the postseason, but De Rosario feels the collective spirit of the club will be enough to surmount that obstacle.
"Back-to-back titles is definitely possible," he said. "At the start of the year, people were writing us off, but we are a tight unit and we went on a 15-game unbeaten run to get ourselves rolling.
"I think of us as like Manchester United all those years ago. When they started out, they were not all really huge superstars, but they played like a family and achieved great things together. We are very similar in the way we all work for each other, move for each other and are determined to succeed for each other."
Success and stability in Texas is a far cry from De Rosario's upbringing in the Scarborough neighborhood of Toronto, where gangs, guns and violence cast a constant cloud over the community. De Rosario is reluctant to talk about specific incidents, but it is clear that soccer has provided him with an escape from a difficult existence.
"My upbringing was as a poor kid," he said. "It was metro housing, project areas. My aunt (Lea Desouza) basically raised me. She has just turned 95, and I owe so much to her.
"There was violence around the area. When you are young, you see stuff that is not nice … but it makes you mature a lot quicker and makes you stronger."
De Rosario, however, never will forget where he came from.
"I played with some great players who never made it because of the lack of resources, so it is big for me to become a professional," he said. "When I go back to Toronto, I am a big inspiration for people, and that means a lot."