CHESTER, Pa. – The scenario was something out of Martin Rennie’s nightmares.
With a match looming at Real Salt Lake on Friday (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), The Vancouver Whitecaps head coach surely would have liked to see center back Jay DeMerit coast through at most 45 minutes during Wednesday night’s AT&T MLS All-Star game against Chelsea at PPL Park.
Enough to break a sweat and stretch his legs, but certainly nothing approaching a full shift.
WATCH: DeMerit makes a crucial challenge
But with central defensivel partner Aurélien Collin forced out after 36 minutes following a injury suffered in a collision with Michael Essien, MLS head coach Ben Olsen was forced to do something he’d hoped to avoid: play DeMerit for all 90 minutes with a league match a mere 48 hours away.
“It means I’m going to get a bunch of calls from Vancouver really pissed off,” Olsen said. “That‘s what that means. The plan was get him out at halftime. He has a game on Friday and unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. Our depth as center back wasn’t great. …
“[DeMerit] knew it. He looked at me at halftime and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ But I thought he did a great job. And it didn’t really affect the game too much. [Carlos] Valdés came in and did a great job.”
And while it was a development that DeMerit certainly didn’t see coming, he didn’t hesitate when circumstance required he put in a little more than the rest of his teammates in a last-gasp 3-2 victory over the Blues.
“There are certain things that when you’re asked to do them, you do for your teammates and your coaches no matter what the scenario is,” he said.
That response was typical DeMerit, but his teammates weren’t quite so subdued about the 32-year-old’s contribution.
The former Premier League center back and World Cup veteran harassed and harried Romelu Lukaku for most of the night, winning a handful of crucial tackles and generally making life difficult for the young Belgian.
Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who was the main beneficiary of DeMerit’s presence during the second half, was so impressed with his performance that he cut off reporters to give his two cents on a standout performance born of necessity.
“Jay DeMerit is a beast," Kennedy said. “A beast. He had four headers in the last seven minutes of the game. The ball seems to find him, and that means he’s always in the right spot.”
And while that may not be a good thing for Rennie in context of Vancouver’s upcoming schedule, it certainly filled a need for the victorious All-Stars at PPL Park.