Vancouver Whitecaps captain and first-ever MLS signing Jay DeMerit announced his retirement from professional soccer on Thursday.
The 34-year-old hasn’t been heavily involved in the last two seasons because of multiple injuries and he finally decided that it was time for him to walk away from the game.
In his letter to Vancouver fans, DeMerit wrote, “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 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.
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. I take the field because I’m ready and able to give my all, to fight for my teammates, and give a committed performance for my club or my country.”
DeMerit’s rise to prominence is an incredible story. The Green Bay, Wisc., native was undrafted coming out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, so he filled the backpack his parents gave him as a present for graduating college with personal items and flew to England.
He spent his first few years abroad living in his friends attic in a house in London. He went from club to club in search of a professional contract, and eventually started playing for ninth-tier Southall in the Sunday League. His compensation was $70 per week.
His persistence and determination paid off when he joined Watford FC in 2004. Two years later, DeMerit scored the game-winning goal in the 2006 Football League Championship playoff final. That goal sent Watford to the English Premier League.
He made over 180 appearances for Watford before he became a free agent in 2010.
That same year, DeMerit got to wear the Red, White, and Blue of the US in South Africa. He was a big member ‒ started every game – of the side that made it to the round of 16. He made 25 international appearances in five years with the USMNT.
He joined the Whitecaps in 2011 and made 71 regular season appearances for the Canadian side, scoring once. He led his side to their first playoff in 2012.
He knew it was time to quit a week and a half ago when he realized he might never be able to compete at the same level with the younger players.
“These young able bodies were flying around at each other and tackling hard and playing at a level that we expect at the Whitecaps,” DeMerit said. “I kind of thought to myself, I’m not sure I can do that anymore.
I just decided right there that I’ve had enough. If I wasn’t at peace, it would have taken me more than an hour to make this decision. I know myself and I know when it’s the right decision. For anyone that knows me, whether it’s me as a person or the way that I play, it’s pretty much all in.”