When Jay DeMerit joined Whitecaps FC as their first-ever MLS player, most expected that he would eventually be named team captain.
This week, that presumption was confirmed.
'Caps head coach Teitur Thordarson officially named the US national team veteran and former Watford FC skipper as team captain on Wednesday. DeMerit becomes the 20th captain in club history, while midfielders Terry Dunfield and John Thorrington were named as the team’s alternate captains.
“When we got Jay over here, we were hoping that he would be the leader that he’s shown us that he is,” Thordarson said before practice on Wednesday. “So that’s why we have chosen him.”
While Whitecaps FC are technically a new team, at least in regards to MLS, the Green Bay, Wisconsin, native fully understands what it means to be bestowed the honour of Whitecaps FC team captain.
“It’s a representation for the whole club and I understand the rich history, the captains before me that have done this club a great service,” DeMerit said.
The 6-foot-1 central defender joins an elite class of former players to lead the Blue and White. Among them is the legendary Alan Ball, a key contributor on England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad. Ball was co-captain of the 1980 ‘Caps team and also served as captain of the English national team for several years before retiring.
Terry Yorath was another ‘Caps headman who captained his national side. The Welshman led Vancouver from 1981-83 and his country for 42 of his 59 international appearances. John Catliff and Bruce Wilson, meanwhile, led Canada to Olympic and World Cup appearances.
One figure who DeMerit will likely want to replicate is John Craven. The hard-nosed centre back guided Whitecaps FC to their famous 1979 Soccer Bowl title and will forever be entrenched in club lore.
Still, DeMerit's immediate goals are more pragmatic.
“[My job is to] try to glue us together as a unit and to make sure we’re all on the same page come March 19,” DeMerit said. "Two weeks is still a long time and there’s still a lot of work that we need to do - and I think we’re all aware of that - but you can feel the excitement starting to build. It’s an exciting time, and I think it’s important for us to not feel the pressure of that, but to embrace the excitement.”
The list of former captains also includes a number of familiar faces within the organization. Alongside Billy Stevenson, Sam Lenarduzzi was captain of the first ‘Caps squad in 1974. He now serves as the club’s manager of camps and clinics.
Sam is not the only member of his family to have worn the captain’s armband. Bob Lenarduzzi led the 1984 team and his now club president. Martin Nash held the position for the past two seasons and has since moved onto a coaching role with the Whitecaps FC Residency program.
“It’s not just being active around your team and your teammates, it’s about being active in the community, representing the club and really growing the club,” said DeMerit. “That’s been no secret as to one of the reasons why I’m here. ... We’re looking to help Whitecaps FC continue to build that rich history.”