Jay Michael DeMerit (born December 4, 1979 in Green Bay, Wisconsin) is a former American soccer player who last played for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Major League Soccer. His improbable career is the subject of the independent film, Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story, based on his rise from the ninth tier of football in England to the Premier League and FIFA World Cup.
In 2003, DeMerit took the advice of a former European teammate and decided to take advantage of his European Union work status (due to his Danish grandfather) by moving to England with only $1,800, in an attempt to find a club to play for. He started off playing in the ninth tier of English football for Southall, earning only £40 a week.
In July 2004, DeMerit joined Northwood, a seventh-tier side, to play in some of their pre-season matches. Northwood played Watford FC, then a Football League Championship team, in their second pre-season match. During the course of the match, DeMerit impressed then Watford manager Ray Lewington (Current England national team assistant manager) enough to earn a two-week trial. Following the trial, DeMerit signed a one-year contract with Watford to play in their 2004–05 season.
During the 2005–06 season, Watford was expected by many to fight relegation from the Championship to League One as they had in DeMerit’s first season with the club. However, under new coach Aidy Boothroyd, Watford maintained strong form throughout the season and finished third in the Championship table, earning the right to enter the playoffs for the last of three annual promotion spots to the Premier League. On May 21, 2006, in the play-off final against Leeds United, DeMerit headed in the game’s first goal and was named Man of the Match as Watford gained promotion to the Premier League by defeating Leeds United 3–0.
DeMerit’s hard work in the 2005–06 Championship season and his efforts in helping get the club promoted was rewarded with a contract extension taking him through the end of the 2008–09 season as a Watford player. He was named as one of three candidates for Watford’s 2006–07 Player of the Season award, which was ultimately won by goalkeeper Ben Foster.
On December 15, 2007, it was announced that DeMerit had been named captain, replacing Mahon, whose contract was not being renewed.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
On November 18, 2010, DeMerit was announced as the first player signed by Vancouver Whitecaps FC in preparation for their entry into Major League Soccer in 2011. He was also named the captain right before the season started. During the 2011 Major League Soccer season, DeMerit was out for a considerable amount of the season through injury. In 2012, DeMerit was healthy the whole year and led the team to a decent finish. DeMerit was even named an MLS All-Star and played against Chelsea in the 2012 MLS All-Star Game. The MLS All-Stars won 3–2 against Chelsea.
In July 2014, DeMerit announced his retirement after a series of injuries. His retirement brought the curtain down on a fairy-tale decade as a professional footballer which saw him rise from English non-league football with Southall and Northwood, to Watford, then the Barclays Premier League and finally onto the 2010 FIFA World Cup and into Major League Soccer.
Above: Jay DeMerit seeing off Spain’s David Villa
DeMerit earned his first cap for the United States national team on March 28, 2007, starting in a friendly against Guatemala. He was a member of the US Men’s National Team that won the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, thus qualifying for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
In the 2009 Confederations Cup, DeMerit started at center. He played the entire game when the US Men’s National Team defeated Spain in the semi-final 2–0 on June 24, 2009; the Barcelona sports daily El Mundo Deportivo called DeMerit’s play “superb”.
For the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, he made Bob Bradley’s 23-man squad, and started all four of the United States matches – the three first-round games, against England, Slovenia, and Algeria, and the second round match against Ghana, in which the US Men’s National Team were eliminated. During the Algeria match he played most of the game with a split tongue that required five stitches after the game.