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.

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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 →

18 Responses to Jay DeMerit: Difference Maker

  1. adam says:

    Not sure I agree on Demerit, but i 100% agree on Bocanegra. He is the worst centre back i have seen for the US in years and years and makes me long for Agoos.
    He is absolutely reckless in his fouls and does not even know how to properly clear the ball. I would like to see Parkhurst or Orozco given the chance to replace Bocanegra.

  2. Carlos says:

    Bocanegra has never been good at the international level. He was useful at one point for Fulham but has generally been played despite his defensive ineptitude because of his ability as Kartik mentioned to score goals on headers. But Gooch can do that and doesn’t get beat as often. Get someone be it DeMerit or Conrad to lock them down.

  3. Peter says:

    Good piece. I agree…carry on 🙂

  4. Darren says:

    demerit has a great deal of quality for watford and has earned this opportunity
    boca is not only reckless. he’s flat out dumb on the pitch.

  5. Lawerence says:

    Orozco gets a chance in the Gold Cup. He’s left footed like Bocanegra but has better positional sense. He’ll be solid.

  6. Eyes Wide Open says:

    Am I the only one with my eyes open here? The back line was a disaster against Egypt and DeMerit was a big part of that. Backing up in defense (just like what led to the Italian goals), allowing balls to roll untouched through the area, low and central clearances, being completely befuddled by Egypt’s off the ball motion and desperate last-ditch clearance from the area were the norm. The US was VERY lucky not to give up a goal or three. If it wasn’t for Egypt’s all round sloppy play this could have easily been a draw. Bocanegra may not be much better, but DeMerit’s and Onyewu’s play does not deserve praise. That shut out was purely the football gods smiling down on us.

  7. Mitch says:

    Eyes, I would have to disagree. Granted plenty of “scary” balls passed through the 18 but that happens all the time and it is up to your defenders to get a boot on it before the other guy does and that is all I saw from gooch and demerrit. their marking was tight, the overlap of the defence was sound and yes there were breakdowns and no they did not play a perfect match but the difference is night and day. I saw Gooch on at least 3 occassions cover the middle of the box on crosses where he bodied out the Egyptian player, he did what a centre back should do, be physical and be quick , overlap and even push the ball into the offensive zone. Demerrit I feel was just as sound, I have the game on DVR and will be re-watching, but this time I will pay close attention to those two and do my best to give an honest report.

    I think the Brazil Italy result was the result of the football gods smiling upon us, not the hard fought and well deserved result we won.

  8. Eyes Wide Open says:

    The win was indeed deserved, but the shutout wasn’t. Yes, both DeMerit and Gooch won nearly every ball in the air, but their clearances were clumsy at best, often putting Egypt right back into the attack. Put the ball at their feet and the clearance turn from clumsy to cover-your-eyes ugly. Just too much desperate defending for my liking. A better team has and will punish that.

  9. eplnfl says:

    Love Jay Demerit who is from the University of Illinois Chicago soccer program who has performed well in the NCAA lately and produced a #1 draft choice this season for the Fire.

    The best thing about Jay Demerit is that he is all effort. Do one works harder on the pitch. I won’t be a complete homer here and say that he can’t get beat because he does but you know he is giving 100 percent when at all times.

    Jon Spector and Jay Demerit have become part of the Windy City back line for the USMNT.

  10. Eric says:

    Spector is my favorite defender at the mo. He’s fast, smart and decisive. I haven’t seen Demerit play except in the game against Italy. I thought he played pretty well for the most part. Definitely a very, very focused player. But, the way he backed off of Rossi – didn’t just not close him down, but he actually backed off like he didn’t know Rossi might take a shot from 18 yards. That was surprising. Everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully that was an atypical big mistake for him.

  11. Jack(Vegas) says:

    I think that Demerit should start vs. Mexico but I doubt that Bob Bradley would move the “Captain” to LB. On a side note, I think 2 players would make better captains than Bocanegra are Donovan and Hejduk.
    Demerit, is definitely solid, and has been a pretty consistent performer. A CB with a little more speed might be ideal to to pair with oneyewu but Demerit is the pick of the litter at the moment.

  12. Ryan says:

    “I think that Demerit should start vs. Mexico but I doubt that Bob Bradley would move the “Captain” to LB.”

    Doesn’t Boca play left back for his club team in France?

  13. Chris Riordan says:

    I agree that DeMerit is more solid at the primary skill set for a CB, he’s not as dangerous as Bocanegra on setpieces … But we need solid markng at that position. I also do like Orozco … But speaking of being reckless, his agressive tackle and subsequent red card, cost us a shot at the knockout round at the Olympics.

  14. C Webb says:

    I too am puzzled as to why Bocanegra hasn’t been moved to left back. Yes, he doesn’t have the speed you want in a typical left back, but he’s certainly a better defender than anything we have at the moment and he’s actually got a pretty good left peg.

    Furthermore, I guess I don’t see the massive shortcomings that Kartik and most of you see from Bocanegra. While far from a perfect fit with Onyewu (who has his own misgivings mind you), the team does play better defensively with those two in tandem.

    While we (the USA) could possibly trumpet the slowest backline in world soccer (with Spector-Onyewu-DeMerit-Bocanegra) it just might actually stop a few goals from going in. That more than anything has been the biggest part of the US’ poor play recently. I’ve never before seen the USA give up as many goals as this current squad does. It needs to be sorted out and sorted out right away.

  15. Jeff says:

    Great piece……..I agree 100%. One correction though. I read the Chang piece also and could swear it was 9 straight games for the US or Rennes. Regardless the conclusion was the same, in all 9 games Bocanegra made a horrible mistake.

  16. Joey Clams says:

    If scoring from dead ball situations is so important – and I agree that it is – why doesn’t Bradley have someone on the field who can serve a decent dead ball?

  17. Ryan says:


    Who exactly do you propose? Sacha’s got a good ball, but we’ve seen what a disaster he is out on the field. Call in Brad Davis just for his set piece ability? Throw Freddy out there and hope he can fix the inconsistent balls he’s hit before?

    I think with this one the problem is more that a good US dead ball striker doesn’t exist.

  18. Eric says:

    Landon has the most quality on the field from the deadball. He does hit it low/short quite a bit, but more often than not his service is very good. He just needs to work on consistency.

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