Jay DeMerit thinks the US men’s national team doesn’t have the same gritty players they once had and he blames the “American system” for the failure.
"I want to know where the Jay DeMerits of now are, I want to know where the Brian McBrides are, I want to know where, I suppose, the gritty guys [are]," he told OneSoccer Hangouts, Episode 11. "Essentially, as Americans, that should be built within us. The Rockys of the world. Where are those people?"
The former USMNT and Vancouver Whitecaps center back said that’s been one of the biggest differences in the program since he played for the team.
“I think the system has allowed us to not find them. I feel like the system has created these players that are good, technical players, they’re great athletes, they are very well drilled in the sport,” DeMerit said. “But have they taken enough hits to create humility? Do they have the balls to stand in a room and be criticized or put themselves in situations they haven’t been in before to create adversity? Have they had enough adversity in their lives to know the occasion they’re walking into other than wearing red, white and blue? In my opinion, probably not.”
He said he acquired that grit as an up-and-coming player at Watford, when he had to clean the boots of first team players even before breakfast at the training ground. DeMerit would make 183 appearances for Watford before becoming the Vancouver Whitecaps first signing ahead of their inaugural MLS season in 2011. He was also their first captain, playing four seasons before announcing his retirement in 2014.
“I don’t think we create that mindset anymore,” he said. “We create privileged kids that think they’re just going to make it and be the next LeBron James or Lionel Messi or Landon Donovan when they don’t really have the tools to do that and they don’t have the mindset to go through adversity or to be the players we want them to be as American soccer fans.”
The exception, according to DeMerit, is Christian Pulisic, who followed a similar path even at a younger age than DeMerit.
“I love [Christian] Pulisic, I do. I believe he’s the next best thing,” DeMerit said. “But I think he’s created that grit by moving to Germany as a teenager, getting balls rifled at him and working his way through the ranks in Germany, where they don’t take a day off.”