Coming out of UIC, Jay DeMerit played on the Chicago Fire reserves, a PDL team with a loose affiliation with the MLS club of the same name, but he never got a look from the Fire or any other MLS team.
It took eight years and an international career that began in the ninth level of English soccer -- "It's not something you could make up," says Watford's Iain Moody -- included a stint in the English Premier League and ended with an appearance in the 2010 World Cup before DeMerit signed with MLS.
Tom Soehn, who was an assistant on the Fire eight years ago, helped introduce the 30-year-old DeMerit Thursday as the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps' first signing. "The thing you knew about him then is that he'd run through a wall for you," says Soehn.
DeMerit has no regrets about the long road it took for him to get to MLS. "For me, it's always been about the challenge, about the journey," DeMerit said. "It was always about, 'What can I achieve next? What person can I prove wrong now?' You fight and you accept the road that comes along with it."