After his first MLS experience in six years, the Columbus Crew’s Michael Parkhurst said the league is what he expected – better overall than his last stint.
“The level [of play] was what I expected,” Parkhurst told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday’s training session. “I’ve been following the league since I left. The level is getting better every year.”
Parkhurst said he could tell immediately that the league had improved when he was signed by the Crew in January after playing in Denmark and Germany.
“The biggest way you can tell that right off the bat is training,” he said. “When I was in the league prior, the level of training really dropped off after the first 13, 14 guys maybe. Here, I think now the level now isn’t dropping off.
“You’ve got 25 guys, 26 guys all battling to get into the 18. That just wasn’t the case when I was here prior.”
The veteran USMNT defender led the Crew to a 3-0 victory Saturday in the 2014 season opener against D.C. United, where he faced off against national team teammate Eddie Johnson, who he’s more than familiar with.
“We’ve battled a little bit; [Johnson] is a handful,” Parkhurst said. “He’s, physically, one of the most superior guys in the league. He’s fast, he’s strong, he can jump through the roof. But I thought myself and [defender Giancarlo Gonzalez] did a good job of keeping him in front of us and limiting his chances.”
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Parkhurst, who played center back rather than one of the fullback spots where he normally lines up for his country, said he’s happy to have edged out Johnson, who he expects to see more of as the World Cup approaches, in keeping the clean sheet.
“You like battling against those guys,” he said. “You’re going to see them in camp, and you don’t want anyone to be giving you a hard time about beating you, not only personally, but for the team as well. So bragging rights are involved in the one-on-one matchup, so I’ll take it.”