Jay DeMerit plays 59 minutes, helps Vancouver to draw in return

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Martin Rennie didn’t want it to happen like this, but when Brad Rusin went down just after the half-hour-mark in San Jose, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ head coach saw his hand forced. Johnny Leveron and Andy O’Brien weren’t healthy enough to travel, and his team’s only other central defender, Carlyle Mitchell, was already on the field. Jay DeMerit was his last option.

But the Whitecaps were no worse for it, forcing their recovering captain into the fray during their 0-0 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium. Helping his team to a valuable road point, DeMerit went 59 minutes in his first action since suffering an Achilles’ tension injury in the season’s first game.

As Steve noted early last week, DeMerit’s been inching back for some time, but mid-week it seemed unlikely he’d made his return on Saturday. Rennie had not only hinted DeMerit was not ready but implied his captain may not return to the field at all this year.

Famous last words. After Rusin left with a leg injury after 31 minutes, DeMerit was on, his hour-long shift helping Vancouver limit their hosts to two shots on goal. The result that kept the team in seventh place, still five points out of a playoff spot.

From the league’s website, DeMerit’s thoughts:

“Sometimes you just have to go out there and play,” DeMerit told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match when questioned about his return. “Thankfully I was able to do that tonight. A bit of a baptism of fire but I’m on the bench for a reason.

“I knew that if I was called upon I’d go out there and try to do my job. Thankfully the guys around me did theirs as well and we were able to get a good away point.”

Vancouver’s next game is Saturday at Montréal, and while back-to-back games might not be ideal, the nice grass of Stade Saputo would give DeMerit a good surface to continue his return. After that, thanks to Cascadia Cup fun, Vancouver doesn’t play on grass until their Oct. 19 visit to Colorado.

Here are the highlights from last night’s match in San Jose: