BURNABY, B.C. – When the United States take on Canada in Toronto on Sunday, Jay DeMerit will be watching from across the country, well-removed from many of his former US national team compatriots.
The popular captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps has found himself in the international wilderness since the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann 10 months ago, and has yet to receive a phone call from the German tactician, let alone a call-up.
“All I can do is play for the Whitecaps and let the chips fall where they are,” DeMerit told MLSsoccer.com following a Whitecaps training session at Swangard Stadium on Thursday. “I watch the US games and I know there’s a lot of talent to choose from. There’s a lot of guys that need to be groomed toward the next World Cup.
“The good thing about myself is that you know what you’re going to get. If [Klinsmann] needs a player like me then I’m ready.”
His coach in Vancouver, Martin Rennie, feels the Green Bay, Wisc., native is still up to the challenge of international football, especially now that he seems to have put his groin problems behind him.
“There’s not any doubt that he could play at that level,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at Burnaby Lake Field on Friday. “He’s been one of our most consistent performers. He’s been fit and healthy the whole time and in my mind there’s no doubt he should be playing for the national team, but it’s not my decision.”
DeMerit, like the Whitecaps, has enjoyed a resurgence in 2012. He’s led a backline which has kept five clean sheets in 12 matches, and has arguably been the biggest part of that defensive success, putting in some towering individual performances.
He’s 32 now, and by the time the 2014 World Cup rolls around, he’ll be 34 – but that shouldn’t be a problem, and indeed that extra experience could be an asset, according to Rennie.
“Jay’s always been really athletic, but now he’s really developed his understanding of positioning,” Rennie said. “You hardly seem him stretching or using his athleticism hardly ever in games, whereas last season you saw him always having to stretch, running intodifficult areas and things like that. Now his positioning is so good that he’s not being tested as much athletically but he still has all those athletic attributes.
“He scores at the top of almost all our athletic testing, so now if you add that to his positioning, his age is not a factor. At 34, it’s actually quite a common age for center backs to be playing at World Cup tournaments and so on. And if you look at the European Championships now, many of the top guys are now at that age.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.