When Jay DeMerit was unveiled as the Vancouver Whitecaps’ first MLS signing in November 2010, the move was met with much fanfare.
The new MLS club was getting a player with pedigree who had just represented his country in the World Cup in South Africa. It wasn’t long before DeMerit was named the team captain.
But his MLS journey was not to be smooth sailing and after four injury-ravaged seasons, the 34-year-old has made the tough decision to hang up his boots.
"About six weeks ago when I tore the new tendon in my ankle, I knew I was up against it," DeMerit admitted in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. "This is something when it makes sense, when it's right, it's not sad. It's not something that I'm going to regret. It's something that I'm very proud of, and it's something that I thank every day that I was able to do."
The former US international fought back from a recurring groin injury in his debut season to be almost ever-present in 2012, earning All-Star honors and leading MLS to a victory over Chelsea in the process, which he said was one of his highlights as a Whitecap. An Achilles injury just six minutes into the first game of 2013 kept him out for six months, but he rehabilitated hard and came back sooner than expected.
Restored to the starting lineup for the 2014 campaign, DeMerit hobbled out of the June 7 game at Philadelphia with what turned out to be a ruptured tendon in his ankle. It looked like an innocuous incident at the time, but it was one that proved to be just one injury too many for the veteran defender.
DeMerit made the decision to retire after some reflection on a local beach following a recent training session.
"A week ago, I went into training as normal," DeMerit said. "We're sitting there on the side of the field and we're watching these guys train. I'm watching Christian Dean going sliding in for a tackle, a strapping young athlete that reminds me of what I used to be like. I'm watching these guys play and it just kind of dawned on me that I think these days might be over.
"I watched these guys play and I looked down at my ankle and I see an ankle with only one real tendon in there and I think to myself, ‘I don't think I have it in me anymore.’ Not just to get back, because I did that last year. My goal last year was to get back and to get one more contract to play one more year. I didn't sign one more year so I could be on the sidelines again."
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DeMerit made the move to the Whitecaps after six successful seasons with English side Watford, becoming the first American to captain both sides. But despite the lows he’s suffered at times with the Whitecaps, he said he’s enjoyed his brief stint in Major League Soccer.
"I thought it was an amazing experience and an amazing opportunity to be a part of a blank canvas and Vancouver in the MLS gave me that opportunity," DeMerit said. "When they shared the vision of where this club was, this was a club just starting in MLS. I knew I was coming to a culture where soccer was important, and I knew that I could help that."
As he now contemplates leaving behind his playing career, DeMerit is still keen to be heavily involved in the game and will be adopting a new role as an ambassador for the Whitecaps and the sport of soccer in general.
"I'm excited for the future. This isn't a career ender, it's a life starter," DeMerit said. "I'll give my best to give back to this game."