Jay DeMerit announces retirement

Vancouver Whitecaps centre-back and former U.S. international Jay DeMerit announced his retirement on Thursday.

DeMerit, 34, was the first player Vancouver signed after transitioning to Major League Soccer for the 2011 season.

A former Watford captain, DeMerit started all four games for the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup.

He had signed an extension with the club in January but has missed time with an ankle injury and decided to hang up his boots this week.

"Six weeks ago, I ruptured a second tendon in my ankle in a 15-month timespan -- and things aren't looking good," he wrote on the Whitecaps' website. "Last year, I battled back from an achilles rupture in fewer than six months, proving doubters and naysayers wrong ... but this new injury is proving to be too much to come back from."

DeMerit was playing for a semi-professional club in England before impressing in a friendly against Watford, who signed him to a trial. He ended up playing six seasons for the Hornets and scored the first goal of the Championship playoff final in 2006 that saw them promoted to the Premier League.

"In my career, I got to score a goal that sent Watford FC to the Premiership," he wrote. "I got to play in an FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United and a League Cup semifinal against Liverpool. I got to represent MLS on the All-Star Team that beat Chelsea FC."

DeMerit recorded 25 official caps for the United States, though he claimed 26 in his letter. He became a regular starter at the 2009 Confederations Cup and played every minute of the Americans' 2010 World Cup.

"I've had the privilege of wearing the Red, White, and Blue of the U.S. Men's National Team for five years, in 26 games. I got to be part of the group that snapped Spain's win streak in 2009, before playing in the USMNT's first-ever world tournament final against Brazil in the Confederations Cup," he wrote.

"At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I got to stand on the halfway line with my hand on my heart, singing my national anthem as one of 11 starters chosen to represent my country against England, Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana.

DeMerit recalled plenty of highlights off the pitch as well.

"I got to travel around the world, grace a few magazines and billboards, and got to see the soccer community come together and raise money to make a movie about my life," DeMerit wrote. "I got to talk about my beloved Green Bay Packers with Elton John while in my underwear and drink beers with Bill Clinton. I got to meet other amazing athletes and even got to marry the most beautiful Olympic gold medallist on the planet," Canadian freestyle skier Ashleigh McIvor.

Though his playing career is done, DeMerit said he will transition into an ambassador role with the Whitecaps.