Enjoying role as fan, DeMerit confident U.S. can beat Belgium

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VANCOUVER — Former U.S. Men’s National Team member Jay DeMerit is confident, and hopeful, to be outdone at the World Cup. The Green Bay native’s 2010 team made a trip to the knockout round, and he feels this year’s squad can do one better and beat Belgium in Tuesday’s round of 16 game.

“We’re one of the few teams that matches up well with [Belgium’s] physicality, their size and their athleticism,” said DeMerit. “Both teams really rely on that as their team strength. I think it will be a battle in there, I do think it’s going to be close. It might be a 1-1 [tie]. I’ll say we sneak a goal at the end for a 2-1 [U.S. win].”

DeMerit, a Bay Port High School alum, played every United States game in the 2010 World Cup. That team fell 2-1 against Ghana in extra time, and he hopes this group doesn’t suffer the same fate.

DeMerit thinks striker Jozy Altidore could provide a physical presence at forward to go along with Clint Dempsey, though he sees Altidore coming off the bench. He also thinks Belgium’s back-line, which employs several bigger center backs, instead of mixing in speedier, smaller wing defenders, can be exploited.

“What that means, they’re going to be hard to break down because they’ll stay nice and compact and physical in the center,” said DeMerit. “If we can get the ball wide through [Graham] Zusi and [Alejandro] Bedoya and those guys, spread those bigger, physical guys apart, you can exploit their weaknesses in between spaces.”

DeMerit is currently in Vancouver where he plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS. He’s rehabbing an injury right now and says the role of national team super-fan, instead of key player, is treating him well.

“I’ve had my day in the sun so to speak, I’m happy to sit on the couch and be a fan and really cheer on these guys. Just to know I’ve been there, fought for my country in that way, makes me smile and makes me proud of the fact that these guys get their opportunity to do so.”

While DeMerit predicts the U.S. run in the World Cup will not end Tuesday, he is still proud of what the team has accomplished so far. He’s proud to know we’re nearly at the point where his country making the knockout round in the World Cup won’t be a surprise.

“As a fan first and foremost of the US National Team, it’s great to see,” said DeMerit. “As a player, that’s what America expects from us as a group. As an ex-player, you want to leave that team with a new expectation, a new bar to live from. That comes from success on the field. That’s why we’re hoping they continue to raise that bar come Tuesday.”

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