Jay DeMerit Journal: Soccer teams need to have depth in order to be successful

In his latest entry for Goal.com, the Vancouver Whitecaps center back talks about teams rotating players in order to grind out the long soccer seasons.
As the issue of rotation has been coming up a lot recently, I wanted to give my take on it – a player’s point of view.

Our manager, Martin Rennie, came under fire in some quarters last week because he rested a few of us in the league game against New England Revolution, so we could be fresh for the first leg of the Amway Canadian Cup final against Toronto FC. We ended up losing 4-1 against the Revs, so he was questioned over why he changed the team.

I personally agree with the manager’s decision to rest a few of us and rely on the depth of our squad.

It’s plain and simple: soccer is a squad game. We play for longer continuous periods of time during a game and play over longer seasons than almost pretty much any other professional sport.

As well as league games, there are various cup competitions to play in, which means over the course of a season a team can end up playing 40-50 games. In order to achieve overall success in that many games, you need a squad of 20-plus guys who can contribute at any given time.

All the big clubs in Europe are rotating their players every season for the cup competitions they have to play in – the FA cup, League Cup, and Champions League in England, for example. MLS teams are following suit for good reason.

The Whitecaps are in one of those grind-it-out months right now, so anyone and everyone can expect to be called upon at any time. With the heavy schedule we have, the manager decided to rest some of us and give others game time against New England. Yeah, this time we didn’t get the result we wanted, but it’s always easier to criticize with hindsight.

It would be interesting to see the starting 11 for Chelsea in the club's cup games this year, leading up to this weekend’s Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. I would bet that it would be different almost every time.

Also, cup games are a great opportunity for younger guys to get minutes, for subs to try and become starters, and for starters to get the rest they need to stay fresh from time to time. If everyone on the team accepts each of those roles at any given time, you will have a much stronger squad, and, hopefully, greater success overall.

I’ve had to sit out games through rotation and injury before. I can tell you it is never easy to sit on the sidelines and watch your team lose. I’ll always ask, “What if?” Would I have made that tackle? Could I have organized that play a little better? I have to remind myself that we are can only able to control what is controllable.

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I’ll always try to stay positive and get around my teammates, asking them questions about what happened or about the chances we could have scored. That way, we can all learn from games like the New England game. We can also gain confidence from those games that we miss and the team wins. The recent game against Edmonton is a great example: I really enjoyed watching the guys and getting a different perspective from the TV on how we play, examining our team shape and watching how some of the younger and/or inexperienced guys perform.

It’s sometimes just great to be a fan and feel the passion in the stands instead of on the field… Although, I would always rather be on the field!

I’m still reeling from the excitement of the final weekend of the EPL. Every year – from the relegation battle to the race for the title – it always seems to come down to the last day. Amazingly, it came down to the last kick this year – surely one of the craziest finishes to a season ever!

[Related: Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story]

I was watching the highlights of all the Manchester United players smiling and hugging each other because they thought the title was theirs, only for Manchester City score two goals in stoppage time and snatch the title. You can't even write that! You can probably still hear the cheers coming from City fans. Well done to the club and it’s fans.

I was sorry to see Bolton get relegated – and I particularly feel for my USMNT roomie and good friend Stuart Holden, who wasn't able to participate too much this season because of his knee injury. I would like to think that if he had stayed healthy, Bolton would still be in the Premier League.

I suppose that just sums up what the start of this write-up is about. During a season, guys go in and out of form, they get injured, and they get tired. To end up on top, it takes a full squad to contribute for a full season.

Until next time, keep Rising and Shining…