Sports

Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit retires from professional soccer

Vancouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit retired from professional soccer on Thursday after four years in the MLS and an illustrious, if not improbable, 10-year career.

"Today, I announce the end of my career as a professional soccer player," DeMerit said, in an open letter to fans published on WhitecapsFC.com. "I'm enormously proud to have played a total of 284 games for only two clubs – and I got to be the first American captain of both of them for a combined seven seasons."

DeMerit was the first player signed by the Whitecaps, in 2010, and is the only captain the team has known since joining MLS in 2011. Previously, DeMerit spent six seasons with English club Watford, one of them in the Premier League.

DeMerit says he first moved to England "with about $1,200" and a backpack.

"I think about those first years in England, sleeping in the attic of my friend Kieron's house in London, broke, sharing bath water, and all alone trying to find a wall to kick my soccer ball against in my neighbourhood so I could work on my touch and footwork," he said in his letter. "I remember playing games in the middle of the winter, muddy, with nothing but a couple of cows and five people in the stands.

"I think about the struggle to make it, the ability to always stay positive, and how eventually all of those experiences would make me so much stronger as a player, and most definitely as a person."

He has also played 25 games for the United States national team, and played four games for the Americans during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"I got to stand on the halfway line with my hand on my heart, singing my national anthem as one of 11 starters chosen to represent my country against England, Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana," he wrote.

"I got to travel around the world, grace a few magazines and billboards, and got to see the soccer community come together and raise money to make a movie about my life. I got to talk about my beloved Green Bay Packers with Elton John while in my underwear and drink beers with Bill Clinton.

"I got to meet other amazing athletes and even got to marry the most beautiful Olympic gold medallist (Ashleigh McIvor) on the planet."

DeMerit said the Whitecaps fought hardest for his services when he became a free agent in 2010.

"I knew this city was something special the moment I laid eyes on it and I am proud to now call this my home," said DeMerit, adding that he plans to stay with the club, "but now just with a different role."

DeMerit hasn't played in a game yet this season, and tore his Achilles tendon during the 2013 season.

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