DeMerit gets high marks against England

Former Chicago Fire reserve and University of Illinois-Chicago alum Jay DeMerit was given the task of marking high-profile England forward Wayne Rooney on Saturday in the United States’ opener in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Sometimes a defenseman's positive work never comes to the forefront, but in this instance it should. His effort was a bit hidden during the U.S.'s 1-1 draw against England because Clint Dempsey scored the lucky U.S. goal, goalkeeper Tim Howard came up with big-time saves, Oguchi Onyewu’s recovery drew some of the defensive focus.

Rooney's lack of involvement was a big factor over the weekend. In fact, DeMerit and the American defense pretty much kept him out of the match for the first 20 minutes. Anytime you shorten the possession time of such a lethal offensive weapon, it pays big dividends.

"He's a gritty player and he makes it difficult for all the strikers," Onyewu said of DeMerit following the match. "I think he did real well to help us out when we needed it."

DeMerit regularly had good moments and confident runs to the ball. Take a sequence such as the 12th minute, where DeMerit cut off the passing lane to Rooney and headed the ball away. If DeMerit had laid back, he would have faced Rooney head-to-head on the right side, because Steve Cherundolo was pushed up toward the midfield, and Onyewu and U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra were away from the action. In this instance, DeMerit got to the ball first, then midfielder Michael Bradley got there and he passed it all the way back to Howard.

DeMerit maintained a solid line, regularly getting into passing lanes. In the 65th minute he headed an intended pass for Rooney from the right side. DeMerit also showcased some toughness and leverage. winning the ball against Rooney in the 34th minute, then shielding him off the ball during the U.S. possession.

Though the team defense was absent during England's 4th-minute goal from Steven Gerrard, there was some improvement collectively as the game progressed. In the 24th minute, Rooney chested the ball in the center of the pitch, but DeMerit, Ricardo Clark and Bradley all were there to converge on him as the Americans gained possession, then controlled the ball for the next minute or so.

Rooney's movement stepped up a notch in the second half, but that is expected from a world-class striker.

"I thought Jay did well to follow him into the midfield," Bocanegra said. "Second half was a little bit more open and he got a few more chances to run at us, but that's going to happen when we're a bit tired and space gets more open. But I thought we did well on him."

Overall, it was a solid performance by DeMerit and the U.S. defense to hold England's offense off the scoreboard following an early mishap.

"It was a good team effort defensively," U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said. "Rooney is such a mobile player. The way he moves around takes a good level of concentration."