Three Good Questions: Vancouver Whitecaps’ Jay DeMerit

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Jay DeMerit is approaching the one-year anniversary of an Achilles injury that cost him all but eight games of the 2013 season, but if Saturday’s performance at Providence Park is any indication, the 25-time United States international is ready to reclaim a space among the best defenders in Major League Soccer. Thanks in part to his performance, the Vancouver Whitecaps prevented the Portland Timbers from scoring an open play goal in their 1-1 draw at the Rose City Invitational.

After the game, the Vancouver captain talked to ProSoccerTalk about the Whitecaps’ coaching change, his goals for the 2014 season, and his health entering his fourth season in Major League Soccer.

PST: Martin [Rennie] was respected as a bright guy – a bright young coach. Carl is also a bright young coach, but the one difference between them: Carl [Robinson] has a [lot] of MLS experience. Are you seeing that difference in how he approaches things?

DeMerit: Yeah, I think so. That was always the talking point at the end of the season  when it matters, you need guys with [MLS] experience.

Carl certainly has that, both on a playing side and on a coaching side, as an assistant. He is a guy that can bring us to that next level. With only six weeks of him at the helm, we’re already showing the improvement. Hopefully we can take that now to the next level.

On whether veteran leadership is important amid changing coaches.

Very much so, and I know that’s Robo’s (Carl Robinson’s) vision as well, to keep some of the older guy. Kenny Miller, Andy O’Brien, myself — guys that have many, many years of experience — are just as important. As he moves into his next stage of his career as a head coach, he’s going to need all the help had can get, as well.

I think we’ve created a good team environment here, where we’re all in it together. It’s not Robo trying to be the boss. He’s there knowing he needs his leaders and we need him, too.

The best teams I’ve ever been on are the ones that are all together, and we’re defintiely starting to show that now here.

PST: At this point in your career, what kind of personal goals do you set going into a new year? Be one of the league’s best defenders? All-Star team? How do you measure your own performance?

DeMerit: First off, you want to be a leader on a good team. For me, the number one thing I can ever do is get respect form my teammates and my coaching staff. So that’s number one: To make sure I’m here and giving my all for this team.

Number two is to stay healthy. As you get older, that sometimes becomes an issue. So my goal this year is to stay healthy, to play as many games as I can for this club.

And thirdly, it’s always to test yourself against the best in the league, and for them to walk of fthe field knowing I was hard to play against. It’s always been my goal playing against the best players in the world, and that has to continue now.

I enjoy that. For me it’s all about the competition, and I love competing. This year doesn’t change that.

PST: How are you doing health-wise, especially after what happened last year?

DeMerit: It’s been fine. I haven’t missed a day of training yet. Obviously, I finished the last two months of the season, so that was a good indicator.

With serious injuries, you never really know. Once you get back on the field and get back to where you were, that’s a good sign for moving forward.

It’s been fine ever since. Of course, I have to stay on it. I’m 34, and I’ll be 35 this year. I have to make sure I do all the maintenance work required, as to where I’m at in my career.

On the mental aspects of returning from an Achilles injury.

At the end of the season, that was the biggest mental hurdle, not only to prove to myself but to prove to the club that I can still be the player that I was. That’s the first step.

Once I was able to do that, I moved into the offseason with a fair amount of confdence I’d be back. We were able to get the contract done, so I’m happy to be here and still being a leader of this team.

We have a good young group of guys, but we need the old guard to step in and be leaders this year, because there aren’t too many old guys on this team. I think a lot of us that are here are happy to play that role and are looking forward to a good season.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.