VANCOUVER, BC – When Jay DeMerit was unveiled as Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s first MLS signing in November 2010 it was met with much fanfare. The new MLS club were getting a player with pedigree that had just represented his country in the World Cup in South Africa.
DeMerit was soon named the team captain and after four seasons, the 34-year-old has made the decision to hang up his boots.
“About six weeks ago when I tore the new tendon in my ankle I knew I was up against it,” DeMerit admitted in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “This is something when it makes sense, when it's right, it's not sad. It's not something that I'm going to regret. It's something that I'm very proud of and it's something that I think every day that I was able to do.”
The former U.S. international had fought back from a recurring groin injury in his debut season to be an almost ever present in 2012, earning all-star honours in the process, which he said was one of his highlights as a member of the ‘Caps. An Achilles injury just six minutes into the first game of 2013 kept him out for six months, but he rehabilitated hard and came back sooner than expected.
Restored to Whitecaps FC's starting lineup for this campaign, DeMerit hobbled out of the June 7 game at Philadelphia with what turned out to be a ruptured tendon in his ankle. It had looked an innocuous incident at the time, but it was one that proved to be just one injury too far for the veteran defender.
DeMerit made the decision to retire after some reflection on a local beach following a recent training session.
“A week ago I went into training as normal,” DeMerit said. “We're sitting there on the side of the field and we're watching these guys train. I'm watching Christian Dean going sliding in for a tackle, a strapping young athlete that reminds me of what I used to be like. I'm watching these guys play and it just kind of dawned on me that I think these days might be over.”
“I watched these guys play and I looked down at my ankle and I see an ankle with only one real tendon in there and I think to myself, I don't think I have it in me anymore. Not just to get back, because I did that last year. My goal last year was to get back and to get one more contract to play one more year. I didn't sign one more year so I could be on the sidelines again.”
DeMerit made the move to Vancouver after six successful seasons with English side Watford FC and he’s enjoyed the final stage of his playing career in Vancouver.
“I thought it was an amazing experience and an amazing opportunity to be a part of a blank canvas and Vancouver in the MLS gave me that opportunity,” DeMerit said.
“When they shared the vision of where this club was, this was a club just starting in MLS. I knew I was coming to a culture where soccer was important and I knew that I could help that.”
Though he’s now retired as a player, DeMerit is still keen to be heavily involved in the game and will be adopting a new role as an ambassador for Whitecaps FC and the sport of soccer in general.
“I'm excited for the future. This isn't a career ender, it's a life starter,” DeMerit said. “I'll give my best to give back to this game.”