Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit has return in sight

Skipper participates in full training

VANCOUVER, BC - There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for injured Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit.

Months after rupturing his Achilles tendon, the former U.S. national team defender is back on the training pitch and inching closer towards a return.

“First things first, it’s nice to be out there with the guys and, like I said, sweating a bit and getting some game-like movements back,” DeMerit told reporters after participating in a full training session Thursday at UBC. “That’s the first step.”

There isn’t a specific timeline in place for DeMerit’s return, but the next step will likely come in the form of a reserve game or two. The 33-year-old centre back said his leg is feeling strong, but there’s probably still another 5 to 10 per cent to give.

“If I’m training now for this week and hopefully a couple weeks then I’ll have to get a few reserve games again to make sure that the game-like activities are there and that the sharpness is there,” he said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. You’ve just got to stick with the process and then the rest takes care of itself.”

The skipper’s pending return to the lineup has involved a lot of hard work. After suffering the injury just six minutes into the March 2 season opener, DeMerit underwent surgery on March 4 and has been on the road to recovery ever since. He spent two weeks in a cast and six weeks in a boot before starting his rehabilitation process on the underwater treadmill at Fortius Sport & Health in Burnaby, BC.

Initially, many assumed the injury would keep DeMerit on the sidelines for the entire season. Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie was no exception.

"When that happened, even in my own mind, I thought we had lost him for the whole year," Rennie told whitecapsfc.com. "I was obviously very disappointed at the time. But he’s made a great recovery, he’s put in a lot of work and it feels like he’s getting closer and closer to being in contention so we’re all really happy about that. He’s gone way above and beyond just a normal rehab and I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s recovering so fast."

Slowly but surely, the Green Bay, Wisconsin native has become more involved in the team’s training sessions as of late. This week, he started participating in full sessions, followed by some extra sprinting and agility work on Tuesdays and Thursdays with club physiotherapist Graeme Poole.

The end is near, but DeMerit isn’t ready to call it a comeback just yet.

“You don’t want to go out with the first team when you’re not really ready,” he said. “I think that’s the number one worry right now, that we don’t try to push the timeline too much. Saying that, we are to the point where I’m training every day and that means hopefully the sight isn’t too far away.”