Former USA defender Jay DeMerit announces his retirement

Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit retired from the Whitecaps on Thursday.

Anne-Marie Sorvin/Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit announced his retirement from professional soccer on Thursday.

Former U.S. international center back DeMerit, 34, said in a open letter that he chose to call time on his career after rupturing a tendon in his ankle six weeks ago. 

"I’ve always been the kind of player who wears his heart on his sleeve – and it’s that heart that is telling me it’s time to stop," DeMerit wrote in his letter. "If I can’t be the player that I have always been, and play to a standard that I believe is high enough, then it’s time for me to smile, say thank you, and give my commitment to a new cause. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped my dreams become a reality over the past 11 years."

His decision draws a close to a surreal journey that included 26 caps with the U.S. national team, an appearance at the 2010 World Cup and the goal that sent Watford F.C. back to the Premier League in 2006.

DeMerit played his college ball at Illinois-Chicago before moving to London. He played for non-league Northwood before earning a contract at Watford in 2004. He spent the next six seasons there (including 32 appearances in the Premier League during the 2006-2007 season) and worked his way into the U.S. national team picture as a result of his performances.

The robust defender made his international debut in 2007 and quickly secured a regular place in the squad. He played a critical role in the Americans’ run to the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009 and then started all four games at the World Cup in South Africa a year later. He appeared 26 times for his country between 2007 and 2011.

His decision to swap Watford for Vancouver allowed him to ply his trade in North America for the first time. He established himself as a fixture for the Whitecaps in 2011 and 2012 before sustaining an Achilles injury that ruled him out for much of the 2013 season. He returned in time to make 11 appearances this season, but his latest ankle injury ultimately prompted him to call time on his career. 

"Eleven years on from that afternoon in the Chicago airport, I’m sitting on my balcony, watching the sun drop behind the mountains of Vancouver, British Columbia," DeMerit wrote. "The ocean water in the bay is calm and I’m at peace. I can’t wait to see what’s next."