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Demerit happy to be a Whitecap

Former Watford defender Jay Demerit shot to fame as the player who arrived from America with just $1,500 in his pocket in an attempt to find himself a club.

Just three years later, he was playing in the Premiership and turning out for the USA national team. After being released by Watford in 2010, Demerit signed for fledgling MLS team the Vancouver Whitecaps.

He caught up with Total Football to offer an insight into domestic and international football in North America.

What drew you to the Vancouver Whitecaps?

Vancouver was the only team that had the whole package - a place I wanted to live, a team I could lead, a community that was passionate, and the challenge of being a part of something from the beginning.

The Whitecaps are new to the MLS and have struggled this year. How do you see things going next season?

Everyone knew there would be ups and downs in an expansion year. It has been frustrating at times, but I know what I signed up for and the challenges that come with that. The positive is that at times both on and off the field, this club has shown that it is capable of great things. Now we just have to do that more regularly, which is definitely possible. 

What are the aims of a side like Vancouver?

Firstly, to gain fan support and make people want to come back and fill the seats. Secondly, to build the right team and make sure by year two or three, you can be up there with the best clubs in the league.

At Watford and now at Vancouver, you have been trusted with the responsibility of being captain. Did you always imagine you would fulfil this sort of role within a team?

You always want to make sure that you are playing a role that you are capable of. I've always enjoyed the challenge of leading. I believe only experience and putting yourself on the line makes you improve. But every team should have as many leaders as possible.

How do you feel the experience of playing in England has affected you as a player?

The English game is the best because it challenges you physically and mentally. The fans and the media are so passionate that you are constantly challenged to be accountable for your play. You have to give your all in every game, and more often than not, that’s not enough. Switching off for one moment could be the difference between a good and bad result.

Both internationally and domestically, US football has improved massively over the last few years. Why do you think this is?

In America, people are starting to see soccer as an exciting sport rather than a kids’ hobby. There is a good professional league, the national team is strong and has beaten some of the world’s best nations, and that filters through nowadays. Beforehand, our best athletes would choose the other big sports but now people see that soccer is a global phenomenon that embraces the passion and culture that only this sport has. And that's exciting.

What was the experience of the 2009 Confederations Cup like? 

Personally it was the first time I got a run of games in a bigger stage for the US team, and that in a sense opened up the door for me to be a starter in the World Cup, so naturally I'm grateful for that tournament! 

How did the success affect the attitude of the players?

It was a great step in the right direction for US soccer. For the first time we were in a major final, beating the world’s best team to get there. Not only did that give the players confidence that we could compete with the best teams in the world, it provided evidence to many sceptical American fans. From then on, people started to pay more attention to soccer. 

And finally, have you considered what you will do when you finish playing?

It's important to have as many options as possible. I currently am an owner in a tech company called Songwhale, and a clothing company called Sectwear. ‘Rise and Shine’ is coming out on DVD in the US in November which tells the tale of my career. I would ideally like to run with that brand, and maybe set up a foundation for kids. Lots of things to think about, but the future is always bright!

By Chris Smith

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