A revived Jay DeMerit and a new-look back line could bring the Vancouver Whitecaps just the stability required for the 2012 MLS season.
After making headlines as the club’s first MLS signing, DeMerit struggled with a series of groin and adductor issues in his first season, playing only 20 matches.
Now, the club’s captain is feeling healthy, but admits diligence is important to avoid those issues springing up again.
“So far so good,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re staying on top of it – I’m definitely not out of the woods yet as far as those things are concerned. But in the offseason we set a pretty good foundation to build on, and hopefully we can keep those things at a minimum.
“[I did] lots of core work, lots of building the muscles groups around it,” he said. “You do strength work to stop that rotation, so my hip doesn’t rotate as easily outward – those are the types of things I’ve been doing.”
If the Green Bay, Wisc., native can maintain his fitness throughout the season, he’ll have a little more help than last year, after the arrival of former South Korean international Lee Young-Pyo and Argentine Martín Bonjour.
Those signings are welcome additions to a club which conceded the third-most goals of any MLS side in 2011.
“You’ve got great experience wide [with Alain Rochat and Lee],” DeMerit said. “Martín is one where you’re going to have to continue to integrate into the back four. He doesn’t speak much English right now, so he’ll have to use his eyes and be communicating in other ways to help read the game, but hopefully these are things we can do on the training field before [opening day] on March 10.
“Then you’re doing good things and keeping more clean sheets than last year, and that’s a goal for us at the back this year.”
Lee has looked lively in preseason so far according to DeMerit, and at 34 years old, the former Tottenham fullback isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
“He’s sharp, he’s reliable – he’s everything a right back should be,” DeMerit said. “He plays very simple. He keeps the ball for us and he’s got a great engine. Anyone who has seen him play in any of the teams he’s played for, the one thing he doesn’t lack is energy and commitment. Those are great attributes to have on the back line and hopefully he’ll show those qualities this year for us.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.