Vancouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit announces retirement

Jay DeMerit

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay DeMerit, the Vancouver Whitecaps captain, public face and first-ever MLS signing, is hanging up his cleats.

DeMerit suffered a torn ankle ligament in the Whitecaps' 3-3 draw with the Philadelphia Union on June 7 and has decided that the lengthy rehabilitation required for that injury is a bridge too far. In an open letter on the Whitecaps' website posted on Thursday announcing his retirement, DeMerit explained his reasoning for calling time on his career in light of the latest injury: "Even if I was to get back to a level where I could potentially play again, I would be putting at risk the reputation that I have spent so many years trying to create, and I won’t do that.  I’ve never taken the field just because I can. I’m either all in or all out."

The Green Bay, Wisc., native is one of the Whitecaps' most recognizable players and has made the area his home since arriving in 2011 season. But the ankle injury marks the latest in a frustrating sequence of health problems which have blighted DeMerit's four seasons in Vancouver, where former manager and director of soccer operations Tom Soehn made him the club's first signing ahead of its accession into MLS.

DeMerit has made 71 MLS appearances for Vancouver, 69 of them starts, scoring one goal and one assist.

An inspiring character who rose from obscurity to earn a contract – and eventually, a starring role in the English Premier League – with Watford FC, DeMerit spent time with the Chicago Fire's PDL team before trying his hand in England. There, he worked his way up the ranks from lower-tier amateur leagues to the glitz and glamor of the EPL. His remarkable journey was made into a documentary film called Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story.

DeMerit was a key member of the US national team from 2007-10. He anchored the USMNT back line during their memorable runs in the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup, but was not called into the team under current head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.