The captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Jay DeMerit, announced his retirement from professional soccer today (July 24). In an open letter, DeMerit said that a second lower leg injury sustained during a June game affected his decision to return to the field.
“Six weeks ago, I ruptured a second tendon in my ankle in a 15-month timespan—and things aren’t looking good. Last year, I battled back from an Achilles rupture in fewer than six months, proving doubters and naysayers wrong…but this new injury is proving to be too much to come back from,” DeMerit stated. “Even if I was to get back to a level where I could potentially play again, I would be putting at risk the reputation that I have spent so many years trying to create, and I won’t do that. I’ve never taken the field just because I can. I’m either all in or all out.”
The 34-year-old American centre back got his start in professional soccer playing for ninth-tier English football club Southall F.C. after failing to be drafted by Major League Soccer teams in the United States. DeMerit went on to play several seasons with Watford, and earned recognition during the club’s 2005-06 championship season. In 2007, DeMerit was named team captain.
“I think about those first years in England, sleeping in the attic of my friend Kieron’s house in London, broke, sharing bath water, and all alone trying to find a wall to kick my soccer ball against in my neighbourhood so I could work on my touch and footwork. I remember playing games in the middle of the winter, muddy, with nothing but a couple of cows and five people in the stands,” he stated in the letter. “I think about the struggle to make it, the ability to always stay positive, and how eventually all of those experiences would make me so much stronger as a player, and most definitely as a person. Then it all started to change.
“I’m enormously proud to have played a total of 284 games for only two clubs—and I got to be the first American captain of both of them for a combined seven seasons,” DeMerit continued. “I got to play in the English Championship, the Premier League, and got to return to North America and experience the continued growth of professional soccer here in Major League Soccer.”
In 2010, DeMerit was the first player signed to the Vancouver Whitecaps prior to their MLS debut. That same year, he competed on the U.S. men’s team in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. At the start of the Whitecaps’ 2013 season, DeMerit suffered a rupture to his Achilles tendon in a match against Toronto FC at B.C. Place Stadium. On June 7, he tore a tendon in his left ankle during an away game at Philadelphia Union.
“It’s time to stop. If I can’t be the player that I have always been, and play to a standard that I believe is high enough, then it’s time for me to smile, say thank you, and give my commitment to a new cause,” he said.
DeMerit stated that he will continue on with the Whitecaps in an ambassador role and expects to remain in Vancouver with his wife, Canadian Olympic freestyle skier Ashleigh McIvor.