Jay DeMerit: Difference Maker
Jay DeMerit’s story is well know to most US Soccer supporters. From the Chicago and the PDL to a pub league in England to the Premier League, DeMerit’s grit and determination have transformed a player nobody wanted in MLS or the A-League (USL-1) into a regular USMNT call up. But now in the FIFA Confederations Cup DeMerit has raised his game giving the US the type of tactical discipline and skillful ball winning that the injured Carlos Bocanegra perennially lacks.
It is no secret to MLS Talk readers that I consider Bocanegra, the team captain to be the weakest link in the US defense. I’m not alone. A few months ago, ESPN.com’s Jen Chang penned a compelling blog tracking Bocanegra’s play and determined that in nine straight matches for the USMNT, the captain had either committed a bad giveaway that led to a scoring chance, committed a reckless foul or lost his mark at a critical time in a match.
DeMerit, on the other hand has made no such mistakes on a regular basis. He can be blamed partially for the second Italian goal in the opening game but otherwise has played nearly flawlessly keeping his position and helping to organize the back line.
Competing on a weekly basis in England’s Football League with Watford has hardened DeMerit. Unlike Bocanerga, whose tenure at Fulham produced mixed results (set piece goals on the attacking end but Bocanegra was beaten regularly at the back which eventually ended up being too much for Roy Hodgson who dumped him) DeMErit has been steady.
Of course you lose the ability to score on set pieces that Bocnegra brings. In Bob Bradley’s tenure the US has become more reliant on dead ball situations than under Bruce Arena. But it seems the value of Bocanegra on the offensive end is negated by his constant mistakes on the defensive end.
I know the move to DeMerit is temporary. But his play has given us a taste of what could be if Bob Bradley stopped playing favorites with players he coached at the club level. Perhaps. Bradley has learned his lesson with the disastrous play of Sacha Kljestan in several matches this year as well as DaMarcus Beasley’s decline from top international to marginal pool player. We can only hope Bradley has taken those lessons and the improbable qualification for the US into the knock out stages of this tournament and learned from them.