VANCOUVER — Even professional soccer players, those who’ve played on the world’s biggest stage, rode the emotional rollercoaster with the United States as they earned a draw against Portugal on Sunday.
“It’s a bit of gut punch, to be honest,” said former U.S. Men’s National Team member Jay DeMerit. “I thought we deserved more.”
The Green Bay native and Bay Port High School alum played in every game of the U.S.’ 2010 World Cup campaign where the team advanced to the Round of 16. He is currently rehabbing an injury as a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS. He found himself in the same situation as many American soccer fans: cherishing the point the team got against Portugal but wanting more.
“The positive here is we should’ve beat Portugal and we beat Ghana already,” said DeMerit. “There’s all sorts of positives to take moving into Germany.”
DeMerit likes the position the United States is in heading into their final group stage game against Germany on Thursday. He liked how Clint Dempsey fared playing alone at the top of the U.S. formation with forward Jozy Altidore out with a hamstring injury and sees that being the tactic the team takes forward if Altidore remains out.
DeMerit also does not see the conspiracy many soccer fans predict unfolding. The United States and Germany would both advance to the knockout stage with a draw on Thursday, leading many to think there could be an agreement to play for a draw; or simply the teams could become very conservative knowing a tie would be enough. DeMerit says that’s possible at the end of a game, but doesn’t think a premeditated tie will happen.
“ I would imagine, if it’s the 85th minute, the game is slowing down, I think both teams would be happy to play it out,” said DeMerit, “but it’s the World Cup. It’s about making sure you win the group as well. I think it will be a battle. If you take 2nd place in the group, you play the first place team in another group, that part of it’s very strategic. You want to go and win. Then it gives you a better chance in the next round.”
DeMerit looks back on his own World Cup experience positively, with the dramatic win over Algeria which propelled the United States to the Round of 16 the fondest memory. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal, he adds, was pretty similar to Portugal’s equalizer against the U.S.
The prospect of a second straight trip to the knockout stage for the first time in U.S. history brings a sense of pride in the 34-year-old. He’s seen the huge parties of soccer fans watching World Cup games, including in Green Bay where his parents went to watch the game. More success, he hopes, will help the sport grow.
“Every World Cup, you try to, as a team and as a culture in U.S. Soccer, set a new landmark,” said DeMerit. “I think if we can get out for the second time in a row. That’s setting a new standard and new landmark we can continue to build U.S. Soccer on.”