Commentary: Questions, expectations in Parkhurst's move
AMSTERDAM – With many stateside fans wondering what lies ahead for fresh Augsburg catch Michael Parkhurst, we're here to break down the situation he's entered.
By signing with the Bavarian mites as a free agent on Wednesday, the Rhode Island native is set to become the first American to play for the club. Given that and the fact that Augsburg's first-ever Bundesliga go-around came last season, it's no surprise those back home may need a quick primer on Parkhurst's new employers. So let's just go through the obvious questions one at a time.
What is his playing time outlook?
Immediately, Parkhurst should grab the first few right back starts. Whether that lasts beyond the return of injured Augsburg captain Paul Verhaegh is another issue with a few variables.
It seems likeliest that one of the two will slide over to left back, bumping Canadian international Marcel de Jong to the bench.
What is the team's second half aim, and how viable is it?
Augsburg will be more than happy just to avoid the drop. At precisely the midway point, they stand next-to-bottom in the table, three points shy of the survival playoff (against the third-place 2.Bundesliga finisher) and 10 adrift of the safety zone.
It'll be a tough task, but not impossible. Last season, Augsburg were last at the break and remained in their current 17th place until mid-February. Five wins and five draws from the last 12 games pulled them out of the mire.
How does Parkhurst fit into Augsburg's scheme?
Manager Markus Weinzierl typically has his boys in a 4-2-3-1 set. While the midfield is quite weak by Bundesliga standards, with just 12 goals in 17 league games, Augsburg's biggest need is an impact attacker.
In other words, Parkhurst should be prepared to find himself on his heels early in games, if not also chasing them with possession later. Augsburg have trailed at the break eight times this season and conceded first 11 times.
The good news is, beginning his Augsburg tenure at right back will allow him to attack in conjunction with Augsburg's top playmaker, young South Korea international Koo Ja-Cheol. That wasn’t part of Parkhurst’s game when he came to Denmark, but this past term he was one of the most effective attacking fullbacks in the league.
Can Parkhurst excel at the Bundesliga level?
Considering his performances in Europe the past two seasons, not to mention some big outings against Danish power FC Copenhagen, one would hope he'll be able to find his way defensively.
That being said, the Bundesliga is loaded with tricky wingers, many of whom call the left side home. For example, Parkhurst's second test in an Augsburg shirt should be outstanding young Schalke attacker Julian Draxler.
And that will be the big test. For all of his savvy and pinpoint crossing, athleticism and the ability to shut down 1-v-1 situations has always been the extent Parkhurst’s ceiling. If he can break through that particular limitation, Augsburg will have gotten themselves a steal.