DeMerit embracing leadership role with Whitecaps

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By JOSE M. ROMERO

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — The younger, less-experienced, less-traveled Vancouver Whitecaps keep asking veteran teammate Jay DeMerit for World Cup stories or tales of his time in Europe or a handicap of some of the greatest international stars he has ever marked.

DeMerit is only too happy to oblige. He wants his fresh-faced teammates to listen, learn and dream big.

DeMerit did. The Packer fan from Green Bay, Wisc. moved to England with, as he characterized it, little more than a backpack, and ended up playing for Watford in the English Premier League for several years before representing his homeland in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

His experience helps make DeMerit a good fit as a leader of the expansion Whitecaps.

"I want to be here and try and help this organization from the start, which is kind of a unique thing in sports," DeMerit said after a recent Whitecaps practice in Arizona. "Especially in soccer. When you get that opportunity, it's exciting."

For DeMerit, 31, playing in Major League Soccer is something he'd always wanted to do. The center back just wanted to be sure the timing was right in his life and career to come back to North America. And what a return – DeMerit was announced in November as the first player signed by the MLS Whitecaps.

"Vancouver was one of the only teams that was willing to fight for me," DeMerit said. "For the last eight years of my life, it's been me fighting for me, trying to prove other people wrong. To have somebody finally fight for you was something that I appreciated and took into account when making my decision."

The Whitecaps offered DeMerit something he hadn't had in England – a larger role with the club. A chance to form the foundation of the new club. 

"I've never gotten to play in front of my friends and family on a regular basis," he said. "There's gratification in that, too. To come back willing and able-bodied and still feeling like I have a lot to give on the soccer field was another big factor."

DeMerit is working his way back from not having played competitive soccer for several months, and is dealing with a nagging heel problem. He isn't doing much in practice but is running and working out on the side. 

On Sunday he and another soccer veteran, midfielder John Thorrington, ran laps around the practice pitch. Thorrington is also not able to take part in full training.

"They are great with the youngsters here," Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson said. "They treat them well and teach them."

DeMerit is looking forward to the Whitecaps' inaugural game.

"That's why you put in the work early, so we can get this stuff out of the way come March 19," he said. "I'm not 23 anymore, so you gotta take these things one step at a time."

DeMerit has already found Vancouver, the city, to his liking. And there's nothing like something brand new.

"It's an amazing thing in professional sports to have a blank canvas and to create those kind of environments on our own," he said. "To experience that from the first day is a pretty special thing."

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16 Responses to DeMerit embracing leadership role with Whitecaps

  1. patrick says:

    wow, he grew the hair out… he looks much older there than he did in the WC

  2. wilyboy says:

    A great man, truly inspiring. Hope everything works out for him there.

  3. wally says:

    Hmm. Doesn’t seem like a great sign that he’s not playing soccer in practice. Wish the best for him-he’s been an absolute warrior for the nats.

  4. Chris says:

    “…ended up playing for Watford in the English Premier League for several years before …”
    i’m pretty sure Watford were in the EPL for one season, and they only won 5 games

  5. B1879 says:

    DeMerit easy to pull for. Good guy for an expansion team.

    I didn’t realize Thorrington was with Vancouver.

  6. Jack says:

    It’s mentioned that he’s been injured. The Caps probably wouldn’t have signed him if they thought he couldn’t get over it.

  7. tbkh says:

    The whitecaps logo is a mess on the jersey.

  8. inkedAG says:

    I wish him luck. Seems like a great guy and has an amazing and inspiring story.

  9. ThaDeuce says:

    Hey DeMerit,
    Get back in shape and get to the Gold Cup!!

  10. JFC says:

    did Nash give DeMerit captaincy?

  11. Colin says:

    Martin Nash? He’s not on the MLS roster. Retired in October.

  12. Charles says:

    I am a Sounder’s fan, but love DeMerit.

    He is an MLS type of player. Not going to outwork, out try him.

  13. Josh D says:

    A nice bulldozing CB – would be happy to see him in the Gold Cup. Hard not to like him.

  14. JJ's shin says:

    I have no connection to Vancouver but I became an instant Whitecaps supporter when they signed Demerit. If you know his story and have seen him play it’s impossible not to respect this guy. No MLS club could ask for a better captain.

  15. emmanuel says:

    Very attractive man, no homo.

  16. Ken says:

    The Whitecaps offered DeMerit something he hadn’t had in England – a larger role with the club… I’m pretty sure he was team and club captain at different points during his time with the orns