KENYA BROWN - Friday, July 25, 2014
Vancouver Whitecaps defender and former United States national team member Jay DeMerit announced his retirement on Thursday.
A spat of injuries during his time with the Major League Soccer side over the past few months have led the native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, to call time on a rather inspirational career.
"Six weeks ago, I ruptured a second tendon in my ankle in a 15-month timespan - and things aren't looking good," said DeMerit in an open letter to fans on the Whitecaps official website. "Last year, I battled back from an achilles rupture in fewer than six months, proving doubters and naysayers wrong once again, like I have time and time again from the moment I stepped on that plane 11 years ago. But this new injury is proving to be too much to come back from."
After being overlooked by MLS teams when he finished his college soccer career at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001, DeMerit would make the journey to England as he pursued his dream of playing professionally. He would go on to play for a couple of semi-professional teams in the country before making a significant step in his career when he was signed by English Championship side Watford in 2004.
It was at Watford where the 34-year-old would get noticed by U.S. soccer fans as he spent six seasons at Vicarage Road, where he became the team's captain for a time.
The high point of DeMerit's career at Watford came in the 2006 playoff final against Leeds United at Wembley Stadium when he scored the only goal for the team to lead the Hornets to a 1-0 win and promotion to the English Premier League.
DeMerit's performances for Watford opened the door for him internationally as he was given his first call-up to the U.S. national team in March 2007 in a exhibition against Guatemala. He would then go on to help the team win the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup which placed them in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. In South Africa, he would play a critical role in the team's run to the final as they produced a shock 2-0 over Spain in the semifinals.
The former Whitecaps captain also played every game for the United States in their 2010 World Cup campaign.
After his contract expired with Watford, DeMerit would become the Whitecaps first signing in 2010 as the team prepared for their MLS debut in the 2011 season. His best season for the team came in 2012 which led to a place in the MLS All-Star team.
While injuries have forced DeMerit to retire, he does at least leave the playing side of his career with a wealth of memories.
"In my career, I got to score a goal that sent Watford FC to the Premiership. I got to play in an FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United and a League Cup semifinal against Liverpool. I got to represent MLS on the All-Star Team that beat Chelsea FC," he said.
"I've had the privilege of wearing the Red, White, and Blue of the U.S. Men's National Team for five years, in 26 games. I got to be part of the group that snapped Spain's win streak in 2009, before playing in the USMNT's first-ever world tournament final against Brazil in the Confederations Cup. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I got to stand on the halfway line with my hand on my heart, singing my national anthem as one of 11 starters chosen to represent my country against England, Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana."
"I got to travel around the world, grace a few magazines and billboards, and got to see the soccer community come together and raise money to make a movie about my life. I got to talk about my beloved Green Bay Packers with Elton John while in my underwear and drink beers with Bill Clinton. I got to meet other amazing athletes and even got to marry the most beautiful Olympic gold medalist [Ashleigh McIvor] on the planet."