American defender, Jay DeMerit, marked Wayne Rooney out of the game. Rooney was the threat USA feared when the teams clashed at World Cup 2010. The pugnacious Englishman was expected to bark. DeMerit brought his muzzle and leash. Flashback a few years -- Wayne Rooney was already a superstar, Jay DeMerit was playing Sunday League pub soccer in England, self-belief in his pints.
Rise and Shine -- The Jay DeMerit Story, directed by Nick Lewis and Ranko Tutulugdzija, is a fantastic bio-documentary screened last week at the Kicking and Screening Soccer Film Festival in New York. The bricks for DeMerit's path to the summit were quarried in Green Bay, the cheesehead pod of American Football. Packers cement is under every home. The community expected victory and they had it. Jay DeMerit felt it and he wanted it. But it was the other football that captured his imagination.
Successful in college soccer, DeMerit hoped for a career in the MLS but was overlooked. But DeMerit's cheese had no sell-by date. Packing his bags with $1500, he flew to Europe with a soccer mate, and set about asking teams for a professional trial. Time was passing, age in soccer is everything. His mate's Scottish mum took him in, fed him beans and toast every night while he played in leagues at the bottom of the English soccer pyramid. He trained relentlessly, doors kept shutting, he was broke, but DeMerit's head was filled with that Green Bay cement, and when his chance came he poured it and was spotted by the English professional club Watford. A contract signed, and as DeMerit flew higher, so did Watford, all the way to the top of the pyramid -- the English Premier League. DeMerit was named captain of the team. His nation came calling.
It is a great story of American confidence, often the mortar on success. Confidence can run both ways, pooling in arrogance or pooling in respect. Jay DeMerit comes from the values of a community rooted in the latter, a collective spirit, Packer country, and in England he found communities and soccer clubs built on principles he already knew. Confidence waved him on. And the power of beans and toast took him all the way.