When his Achilles tendon ruptured just three minutes into the Vancouver Whitecaps first game this season, there were some that suggested the career of Jay DeMerit might come to an abrupt, almost tragic end. However, he showed mental and physical strength and resolve in returning from his injury, highlighted by a very good substitution appearance against the San Jose Earthquakes this past weekend.
DeMerit wasn't supposed to play in California, but another injury to Brad Rusin forced the 'Caps hand, and the club's lone all-star from 2011 was pressed into action. For a guy that hadn't played in months, DeMerit showed no signs for the worse, playing his usual physical style and helping the 'Caps defense to a clean sheet draw. It was a nice post-match story, and it was great to see DeMerit prove that he still has gas left in the tank.
However, what should the Whitecaps do now moving forward? DeMerit's injury led to the emergence of two 'Cap centerbacks; Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron. Mitchell took a little longer to adjust this season, but played arguably his best match against San Jose and has tons of upside at 26 years old. Pair him with a veteran like Andy O'Brien, and the 'Caps could just continue to watch him improve. Then, there's Johnny Leveron, the Honduran national that has excelled with his calm, smooth and almost effortless defensive work. Both aren't the biggest guys on the roster, but possess above average athleticism and have proven to be more than capable in the air.
In addition to our two young guns, the 'Caps have gotten great performances from Brad Rusin when he's been healthy, and though Andy O'Brien hasn't been as great as last season, he has shown he can be one of the most effective shutdown guys in MLS. So basically, the Whitecaps have four MLS quality centerbacks on their roster right now, and that's not counting DeMerit. With the exception of O'Brien, the other three have far more manageable salaries as well. In fact, Jay DeMerit makes more than Rusin, Mitchell and Leveron combined ($325,000 compared to $226,500). Most troubling is that DeMerit is 33 years old, and while he can still compete at the MLS level, he's more likely to deteriorate over time than improve, right? DeMerit's contract is up after this season, and right now the smartest business move seems to be giving him a one year deal, or, not offering him anything at all.
It should be mentioned that strictly from a fan's viewpoint, Jay DeMerit is easily my favorite player. He's an exciting guy to watch, and brings an unmatched level of passion and intensity every time he steps on the pitch. Before his injury, he was one of the best CBs in the league, and I'm fully aware of all of that. However, he makes a lot of money at a position that appears to have a logjam at the moment, so the business assessment needs to be made; what's next for Jay DeMerit? It may not be the Vancouver Whitecaps.
NOTE: It should be mentioned that the Whitecaps have engaged DeMerit with contract talks, although obviously nothing has been finalized yet.