Whitecaps down but not out with DeMerit injury 0
Centreback Brad Rusin (left) will play in place of the injured Jay DeMerit, who underwent successful surgery for his torn Achilles tendon on Monday. (Getty)
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, it will likely be a season without Jay DeMerit.
Moments after the team captain tweeted a picture of himself awaiting surgery, coach Martin Rennie confirmed Monday following practice that the defender is out with a torn Achilles tendon.
And while Rennie won’t give a timeframe for the return of the 33-year-old just yet, DeMerit is reportedly out for at least six to eight months.
“He’s going to be out for quite a long time,” Rennie said. “Just really disappointed about that … He’s such an important player for the club and such a good person to have in your team.”
Having dealt with Achilles tendinitis last season and having it flare up again during this year’s training camp, DeMerit suffered the devastating injury just six minutes into the team’s season opener on Saturday.
Jumping for a header in the ‘Caps eventual 1-0 win over Toronto FC, the American international landed holding his left leg and had to be helped off the pitch. He was spotted on crutches afterwards.
Despite his injury history, Rennie said the rupture wasn’t a "likely risk" by suiting up the vocal leader, but he expected a 100% recovery for DeMerit — noting a similar injury to David Beckham in 2010.
Although the news was devastating, the club isn’t exactly reeling from the loss — considering they have considerable backfield depth.
Brad Rusin, who subbed in Saturday for DeMerit, will be called upon to play alongside Andy O’Brien as the team’s two centrebacks. The 6-foot-4 defender — possibly 6-foot-6 if you include his spiked hair — clearly has a height and size advantage on many opposing strikers around the league.
The Whitecaps also have Johnny Leveron, the Honduran defender who signed with the team last month. The 23-year-old, who is currently dealing with visa issues, is expected in Vancouver this week.
“From a team perspective, Jay is obviously an important person and player for our team,” Rennie said. “But we have people who can play in those positions and we do have good leadership on the team so we’ll be able to go forward strong. Obviously, it’s a blow but it’s not something we need to use as an excuse.”
The coach added the team will take time to decide who wears the captain’s armband moving forward, saying there’s two or three obvious candidates.
For now, the opportunity is huge for Rusin who spent two seasons playing under Rennie with the Carolina RailHawks from 2009 to 2011.
“Maybe it wasn’t the situation to earn my spot but I’m just going to be myself and contribute to the team as much as I can,” the 26-year-old said, adding the veteran presence around him will be beneficial. “All those guys have played at a high level and it gives me confidence.”
O’Brien admits DeMerit will be sorely missed both on and off the pitch but acknowledges that his new partner, Rusin, provides a different presence on the back line — while also taking note of the Indiana native’s dashing appearance.
“From Brad’s perspective, it’s obviously he’s got some great presence. He’s tall, he’s athletic, and he’s good looking for a centre back as well,” O’Brien said with a laugh. “They’re not usually as good looking as that.”