Whitecap DeMerit doesn’t expect any tactical surprises from Impact

Jay DeMerit

The Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t quite sure what 11 players the Montreal Impact will have on the field when the two teams kick off the MLS season Saturday at B.C. Place. But, Whitecaps’ veteran centre back Jay DeMerit has a pretty good idea of how the visiting team will line up.

DeMerit, as a veteran of the U.S. national team, has played under Impact coach Jesse Marsch and his assistant, Mike Sorber. Both Sorber and Marsch were assistants to Bob Bradley, who was fired in July of 2011.

So, DeMerit expects the Impact to feature a 4-4-2 setup close to the style that was employed by the U.S. national team during Bradley’s tenure — and used during the 2010 World Cup, which saw DeMerit start on the American back line.

“I know, talking to Jesse, they’ve prepared well,” said DeMerit Friday at B.C. Place. But he expects to see Montreal take shape in a style “I’ll be used to, anyway.”

When asked if DeMerit had insider knowledge, Marsch responded with a laugh.

“I don’t think Jay thinks that much ahead,” he said.

But, more seriously, Marsch had words of praise for his fellow Wisconsin native.

“I know that Jay is a great guy and a great player. And, there’s little things on how I can help the team (Impact) understand how he plays.”

In the end, though, Marsch said it’s up to the players on the field to figure out how to unlock DeMerit and the rest of the Whitecaps’ back line. He can only provide guidance — it’s up to the Impact forwards to execute. But, he added the Impact will try keep it compact to try and limit a Whitecaps team that offers a lot of offensive options, from forward players such Eric Hassli, Sebastien Le Toux and Camilo.

“We are trying to make it hard, try to make it tight, but we are going to come out and play, too,” said Marsch.

And, as for the Whitecaps? What does Marsch think of them? Did the 3-0 win the Whitecaps registered over the Impact at the Disney World Classic in Orlando mean anything?

“I expect a good team,” said Marsch. “They showed down in Orlando that they progressed quite a bit.”

But, because the Impact has no regular-season history, the Whitecaps can’t really predict what players they’ll see on the field. Really, DeMerit said, it doesn’t matter all that much. He said each of the players will “have their own scouting assignments.”

“But the preference is worring about us and our own team’s shape,” said DeMerit. “Of we do things right, it doesn’t matter how they play.”

And just how will the Whitecaps play? Yes, the additions of Argentine Martin Bonjour and Korean Young-Pyo Lee — and hopefully, a DeMerit who is 100 per cent healthy — will help bolster the defence. But, so much of the media focus on this team has been on the large number of offensive weapons it has, from Hassli to Le Toux to Camilo to Davide Chiumiento. But DeMerit said those flashy forward players’ commitment to defence will be key to a Vancouver soccer renaissance.

“It helps when all 11 of you are defending,” said DeMerit, “and you get help from the front and the wings.”

Canadian midfielder Patrice Bernier said that Saturday’s game will be the Impact’s first chance to surprise the people who have them picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in its first MLS season.

“I think the expectations are not that high, when you look at the history of expansion teams in this league. But we will take it one game at a time. We have been competitive in preseason, and we believe in ourselves. With good spirit and good effort we can create some surprises.”

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.