The Vancouver Whitecaps have already declared that they will at least try to re-sign Center Back Jay DeMerit, as the Captain's deal runs out after this season. However, they made that statement earlier in the season, before Carlyle Mitchell, Johnny Leveron and Brad Rusin had shown just how much they could accomplish when given enough playing time.
Leveron has been hailed for his smooth, effortless, calm play with the ball, and quickly became a fixture on the 'Caps backline because of injuries. Then Mitchell was given a shot; he proved that despite frenetic play at times, he's athletic, quick to the ball and extremely good in the air, maybe the Whitecaps' best. Finally, despite a slew of injuries this season, Rusin brought physicality, size and above-average decision making from his post, making him the ideal depth defender on the squad.
In addition to the kids, Andy O'Brien recently signed a contract extension, and while he hasn't been as rock solid as last season, he's still a very reliable defender with a workhorse mentality. He may have had some injury troubles, but the Whitecaps would feel fine trotting him out for 30 matches a year if they could.
Now, that sounds like a very crowded backline for the Whitecaps already, not even mentioning the fact that they need to spend money on scoring this off-season. That's why my suggestion might come with a few eyebrow raises but, the Vancouver Whitecaps need to sign Jay DeMerit to a contract extension.
First off, the obvious. He is the Captain of the franchise, the most recognizable face on the roster, and has gone out of his way to forge a positive relationship with fans of the team. Whether it be all the hype he created last year with 'mullet-mania', or the sharing of his engagement on twitter, DeMerit has proven that he is a leader in the community, and one of the team's most likable personalities.
On the pitch, while he may be getting a little gray in the beard, his last few matches have proven that he's still got plenty of gas left in the tank. He may gamble a bit too much with his positioning, but he is a great shot blocker, isn't afraid to get physical and can rile up his teammates with his passionate, fiery leadership. Unlike the negative impact that Barry Robson had with his animated antics on the pitch, DeMerit has shown that he can toe the line, and not cross it.
While the club might feel comfortable with Leveron and Mitchell as their 'defenders of the future,' Leveron has less physicality than DeMerit, and Mitchell tends to take too long with the ball, and can get himself into problematic situations. While his athleticism cannot be questioned, Mitchell still needs to work on calming his game down, something he hasn't be able to accomplish.
With YP Lee retiring and Jordan Harvey never a sure roster spot, the Whitecaps may even push Leveron out wide, leaving a Center Back spot ripe for the plucking. That could mean Andy O'Brien slots in with Jay Demerit (my preferred choice), leaving Mitchell to work to earn back his spot next season. This is all very much a prediction, but it makes DeMerit a much more valuable puzzle piece.
Really, the only issue here should be money. Jay DeMerit made a healthy chunk of change last season, ($300,000) and has had a history of health issues throughout his tenure with the 'Caps. That should bring down his asking price a bit; however, if he's looking for a raise, the 'Caps would be wise to walk away. After all, they still need to bring in a replacement for Daigo Kobayashi, and perhaps even Kenny Miller.
Still, DeMerit could be a huge help in raising this young club if he decides to return for another go around. He's a respected veteran, and is just one year removed from an all-star match appearance. Hey, that's just my opinion, though; what do you guys think?