Parkhurst's unexpected call from Bob Bradley
Michael Parkhurst wasn't expecting a call from Bob Bradley.
The former New England Revolution center back knew he was playing well for the FC Nordsjaelland side he joined in the winter of 2008, but a national-team invite wasn't on his mind. He hadn't donned a Red, White and Blue jersey since the group stage of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
But then the phone rang, and the 26-year-old soon found himself on his way to the United States' October training camp.
"It wasn't really something I thought I would be invited to," he told MLSsoccer.com after training on Thursday, "so when I did get the invite, I knew that this was a good opportunity for me to show well and take advantage of it."
Parkhurst played the final 45 minutes of the Americans’ friendly against Colombia at PPL Park, replacing Oguchi Onyewu in the middle of the Stars and Stripes’ back line. He looked strong in limited action and was pleased with his performance during the weeklong camp.
Another call could be coming, but his future on the national team might be on the flank. The Wake Forest standout has been playing right back for Nordsjaelland. He says he’s still learning the position, but Bradley has hinted that the US coaching staff would consider using Parkhurst to address the Nats’ weakness at fullback.
"I'd be up for it," Parkhurst said, although he admits that, "I think first and foremost I'm a center back."
Parkhurst's willingness to play anywhere to get on the field is understandable, but his strong inclination toward the middle makes sense. Moving him out wide would decrease the effectiveness of his best asset. The Providence, R.I., native checks in at just 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, but he reads the game better than virtually everyone in the player pool. His positioning is impeccable. During his final three MLS seasons, Parkhurst played 90 matches and picked up two yellow cards, an unbelievably low total for a center back.
It's a talent Bradley noticed, although Parkhurst's return to the national team was also aided by the struggles of center backs higher up the depth chart, including Onyewu and Jay DeMerit. With Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream and Ike Opara rapidly developing, it's difficult to see Parkhurst in the middle for the 2014 World Cup.
[inline_node:76317]Next year's Gold Cup, on the other hand, isn't out of the question.
And then there's his club career. Although the Bradenton product enjoys Nordsjaelland and says he's improving as he has to fight constantly for his spot in the starting XI, he plans to transfer eventually.
"I would definitely like to move on," he said. "This is a smaller club that wants to sell their players. That's how they survive. We're not going to win the title. They know that and everybody knows that. It's a business: Buy and sell players. They freely sell players, so everybody here at the club has expectations to move on. I'm the same way. Come December, I have one more year on my contract."
Will 2011 bring a new club and a new or increased role with the national team? Don't rule out the possibility.
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Noahedavis.