Back in training, Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit eager to prove critics wrong

Jay DeMerit continues to edge closer to a comeback

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit continues to edge closer to a comeback after rupturing his Achilles tendon on opening day, but Sunday’s Reserve League match against Portland probably comes too soon.

Earlier in the week, there had been optimistic chatter about the possibility of the club’s skipper playing a part in that match, but on Thursday both DeMerit and head coach Martin Rennie played that talk down.

“Most likely not,” DeMerit said on Thursday after a training session at the University of British Columbia when asked about playing on Sunday. “We’ve said along it’s about the process, and I think going down there right now – yes I can go out and play, yes I can start to feel a bit sharper, but am I sharp enough where I can feel 100 percent? No.

“I think before that happens it’s kind of pointless to play a game, but I don’t think we’re too far away.”

The 33-year-old center back returned to full training last week, and on Thursday didn’t look out of place playing in small-sided games along with other first-teamers.

While the Green Bay, Wisc., native is happy with how the tendon has healed, he admits the nearly five months out of action have reduced some of the muscle mass in his legs and brought down his overall fitness level.

“The Achilles is as strong as ever,” DeMerit said. “That’s definitely not the issue. During the injury process, you lose a bit of calf muscle, you lose a bit of reactionary speed. I think that’s the final hurdle now.

“It’s just reacting to plays – balls up in the air, straight down into a sprint and turn, trying to close somebody down – those kind of things where you need that extra five percent is that final hurdle and I need to get that back right now.”

While it looks as if game time at the reserve level may still be at least a couple of weeks away, DeMerit is still very pleased with where he is in the recovery process.

Normally an Achilles tendon rupture can leave someone totally incapable of athletic activity for about half a year, but the former American international has been training on his own at a relatively high level for weeks now as he continues his comeback bid.

“When you’re at this age and you get bad injuries, that’s always the talk,” DeMerit said of chatter that the injury could signal the end for the veteran. “But as an individual, I always had the uphill battle. I’ve always had people counting me out.

“I’ve built a career on that and there’s no reason that that’s going to change.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.