You’d have to be the definition of a glass-half-full sort of person to pull any positives from Vancouver Whitecaps FC's performance in their 4-0 defeat to D.C. United on Saturday. But after a season full of injuries and false starts, the return of captain Jay DeMerit to the lineup provided a beacon of hope.
The Whitecaps’ first-ever Major League Soccer signing has endured a horrid time with recurring groin and adductor issues, but the DC match marked his first action since Vancouver’s 2-1 loss to Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final more than a month ago.
“When you’ve been out for over a month, the only way you’re going to get game-fit is by playing games,” DeMerit told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1040 following Vancouver’s loss. “The progression always needs to be exactly that - a progression. I got a good half in during the reserve game this week, and today, the plan was to go 60 [minutes], and then hopefully go the full way next weekend.”
The Green Bay, Wisconsin, native played 62 minutes in the loss, but that was a scheduled substitution and not a recurrence of an injury.
“The sensible side always prevails when you come back from injuries like this, and changing the mechanics isn’t easy,” DeMerit said. “The time you break down is usually when you got tired. Tonight, the plan was 60, and hopefully, I can build on that for next weekend.”
Another player continuing his return from injury was midfielder John Thorrington, who played for the second game in a row and went for 70 minutes.
“It’s difficult to know going in that [DeMerit and Thorrington] are limited in their minutes because it binds you for subs,” coach Tom Soehn explained after the match. “But I’m happy they made it through, and hopefully, we can go over that hurdle to get full matches out of them.”
While the game went to plan for the majority of the first half, the concession of a first-half stoppage-time goal and a second almost immediately after the break - a goal Soehn called “awful” - took the steam right out of Vancouver’s sails.
“It’s tough,” veteran Pete Vagenas told MLSsoccer.com following the match. “We’ve said it before: We take one step forward and we take one step back. We had a great week of training. We came in prepared. In the second half, it just got away from us and it’s tough. It’s just tough right now. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and move on.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon