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Jay DeMerit and Charlie Davies: Profiles in Player Development

davies goal 300x224 Jay DeMerit and Charlie Davies: Profiles in Player Development

Two of the biggest stars in the Confederations Cup for the United States have been Jay DeMerit and Charlie Davies. Both are players that did not come up through the traditional development system for US Soccer (including the National Academy in Bradenton, Florida which neither attended) and both are players Bob Bradley avoided playing for long period of time on a regular basis. However, to Bradley’s credit he kept calling both players in USMNT camp, something Bruce Arena was unlikely to have done.

At a time when the US spends a remarkable amount of time and money on elite academies, and youth development, these two players have become highly capable internationals without coming through the system.

JAY DeMERIT

The pride of Titletown USA, Jay DeMerit attended the University of Illinois-Chicago leading the backline for the team. Undrafted in MLS and garnering little interest from A-League teams (USL-1), DeMerit signed with the Chicago Fire’s PDL side, in what is essentially the fourth tier of American football. At the suggestion of a team mate he went to England where he was eligible to play without a work permit thanks to his Danish grandfather.

Playing for essentially an eight division Sunday league side DeMerit gained the notice of Watford FC during a summer friendly match and after a successful trial signed for Watford. DeMerit helped push the side towards promotion to the Premiership in 2005-06 but Bruce Arena, the US manager did not notice.

DeMerit seemed to be completely off the US radar even when he scored the winning goal in the playoff final to clinch Watford’s elevation to the top flight. Under Bob Bradley, DeMerit has been called into camp regularly but has not been given much of a chance to show his quality in a meaningful game situation.

Carlos Bocanegra’s injury against Honduras gave DeMerit the opening for this Confederations Cup that he has taken advantage of.

I had noticed in Copa America 2007 that DeMerit seemed to be better positioned as a center back at the international level than many long time internationals. Sadly, that Copa team was destroyed even though they did have some good moments which were forgotten in the post mortem attacks on US Soccer’s decision to send a “B” team to the competition. DeMerit for me was one of the bright spots of that team.

CHARLIE DAVIES

A top youth player in New Hampshire, Davies was seemingly off the radar for the US Youth National teams. Davies fine play at Boston College did get him a few U-20 call ups but in for the most part he was a below the radar player.

Playing for the Westchester Flames of the PDL during the 2006 season Davies gained the notice of several observers furthered that fall by his Hermann Trophy finalist season as a junior at Boston College.

Davies signed in Sweden with Hammarby after his junior season at BC and has been a star since. The only American who consistently scores goals in Europe, he had been viewed by Olympic coach Peter Nowak and  full national team manager Bob Bradley as simply a late game counter attacking option.  Davies has floated in and out of the US squad since June of 2007 when he was first called up for the a friendly against China.

Going back to the days of the American Soccer Show on CSRN, my co-host Dave Denholm and I almost made weekly pleas for the US to start Davies up front. A year later, Bradley finally granted our wish in a desperate situation against Egypt and the move paid immediate dividends.

Yesterday, against Spain, ranked #1 in the FIFA rankings, Davies speed and energy put the Spanish defense on their heels early, opening them up in a way not expected in the pre match analysis. I had predicted a tight match as our readers recall but much of my projection was based on historical factors including a lack of fear of Spain as a traditional power when compared to Brazil, Italy or Germany.

But the bottom line is Bradley got his tactics right something we haven’t been able to say with a great deal of confidence in the past. DeMerit’s tactical discipline and ball winning has allowed the US to keep its shape at the back more easily than when Carlos Bocanegra starts in the middle. Charlie Davies being inserted from the start of matches as an attacking option has allowed the US to not bunker and rely exclusively on counter attacking to generate scoring opportunities in the run of play.

Both these players who were below the radar even to many national team fans for years have emerged as indispensible parts of the first US team to reach the final match of a major FIFA competition ever.

LISTEN TO THE GAFFER’S INTERVIEW WITH JAY DEMERIT FROM MARCH 2007 BELOW

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

13 Responses to Jay DeMerit and Charlie Davies: Profiles in Player Development

  1. Mike says:

    Nice insight into both guys, but the best point you made is what you wrote about Bradley.
    He did pull all the right strings yesterday, but probably his best move is the one he didn’t make: which was putting Beasley in the game. Thank God he fought off the urge; Beasley’s done, or at least needs some kind of leave of absence.
    http://bitly.com/X4xqN

  2. LS says:

    Sounds like DeMerit was a bit fortunate to have things work out his way. There are plenty of talented lower league players that never get a shot at the big time.

    From a developmental standpoint, these are interesting cases but I really don’t think you want to rely on English Sunday leagues as a developmental platform !! :)

  3. Big Tony says:

    Er, not sure about your info here Kartick!

    A) Northwood FC whilst admittedly playing in the seventh tier of English football (The Isthmian League) are a semi-professional team and I’m not sure would take too kindly to be described as a sunday league side! Incedentily they play on Saturdays! True, he got lucky by being spotted quickly, but many big names in UK football have come through the lower leagues, so it’s not exactly uncharted territory.

    B) Demerit scored the first of 3 goals in the 2006 championship play off final, so I’m not sure even with journalistic license you could call it the winner.

  4. Fair point big tony, but it is uncharted territory for a USMNT player. In fact it’s a completely unique story in recent USMNT history even if not in English professional football. Even if it were more common territory for Americans, players off the radar usually stay off the radar which makes DeMerit’s story especially compelling.

    The first goal also is the game winner. Leeds didn’t score, so the first goal held up as the winner.

  5. Eric says:

    Great piece and good job calling this potential upset even though last week you and so many others were off their rocker. I thought we were unlucky against Italy although the Brazil game undoubtedly was an embarrassment of epic proportions it was just one game which you didn’t keep in the proper context.

    It’s a tough job to spot and develop players at a young age but it seems like Bradenton has had more failures than would be acceptable in most cases.

  6. Tony says:

    I think you tend to over rate DeMerit. Parkhurst, Conrad and Califf are still better.

    Davies has been a good call by you. Maybe you just got lucky but I remember you screaming along with Denholm for Davies in the summer friendlies last year, so all credit to you for this.

  7. Big Tony says:

    US players ok, but generally I’m not sure it’s as uncommon as you think – it’s certainly becoming less so as prem clubs now sign players at 13 years old, but in the not too distant past both Teddy Sheringham (Leytonshone) and Stuart Pearce (Wealdstone) came up from the semi pro/non league ranks.

    And maybe the first goal could technically be considered the winning one, but in general football parlance, it describes the goal that tipped the balance in a game won by a one goal margin.

    Jay’s goal against Leeds would have been described as the first or opening goal.

    Maybe it’s different in the states … Tomatoes and all that.

  8. I can’t wait to watch the growth of Davies. Was Davies on the last Olympic team?

  9. Robert says:

    What your story points out, is that for the US to be successful at soccer, the USMNT needs a coaching staff that is willing to evaluate players from all training and playing upbringings. Landon Donovan, the best player in US Soccer right now, is the flag bearer for the Academy system. Of course that doesn’t mean the next 10 on the best XI list are also graduates of the system. The US player pool is so much larger now, and can be exploited by the coaching staff like never before (due to scouting technology). While it is unfair for the coaches to play favorites (and unfavorites — did Adu say something mean about Bradley’s mother?), those that can’t perform are slowly being marginalized. Specific to this tournament, we are seeing a nice job by the coaching staff in choosing high-performing players that are the best fit for the tactical decisions. As such, the team (and results) are improving game to game.

    The media and fans all have their favorites for who should be on the field out of the vast talent pool. I say it is important for us to continue promoting those players. With a higher visibility to the powers that be than ever before, our collective opinions (and passions for success) should used as a resource.

  10. Ture says:

    Two PDL vets playing in a FIFA final. Amazing!

  11. Heading for the Pies says:

    DeMerit has been very good fro Watford. I admit I had never seen or heard of Davies until this tournament, but I’m English and don’t watch MLS, USL or the Swedish League.

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  13. pelewura sunday says:

    i know him right from his England football era, he was a very good player then.

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