OBETZ, Ohio – After Josh Williams came off the field in Sunday's match between the Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes, Michael Parkhurst slotted into the right full back spot for the first time with Columbus.
It worked out. Parkhurst held the fort, and the Crew got out of Northern California with another road result – a 1-1 draw that put them atop the Eastern Conference.
Parkhurst is no stranger to the right back position, and is expected to at least challenge for a spot on the US World Cup team there, despite getting the lion’s share of his minutes in the center of defense for the Crew. According to the longtime US international, it was a nice change of pace to switch to the wing for a few minutes.
“It was fun,” he told MLSsoccer.com after Wednesday's training. “It's been a while since I've been on the right hand side, so it feels good to get back out there, serve a couple balls in the box and get forward a little bit.”
Parkhurst's coach, Gregg Berhalter, said he had no doubts about Parkhurst's abilities at fullback, and that he didn't expect a dip in performance when the defender moved out wide.
“He's very comfortable there; we know he can play there,” Berhalter said. “So I wasn't surprised. He gave a great ball across the middle that could have ended up as an own goal, he was dangerous in those positions, he's very comfortable on the ball, so we know exactly what he can do there.”
In Berhalter's system, Columbus fullbacks are much further up the pitch than for most teams – including Jurgen Klinsmann's national team – and Parkhurst said it was certainly a change of pace from left back on the national team or center back for the Crew.
“It's definitely a bit different,” he said. “The starting point for our outside backs is much higher, they've got a lot more freedom to go forward. For the national team it's definitely much more of a defense-first mentality and staying compact.”
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While Berhalter admitted that Parkhurst had a good showing on the flank, he suggested that the idea of him moving there for the Crew was one that he had thought of.
“It could be an option,” Berhalter said. “All the things that you guys bring up every week are things we're thinking about, of course. It's natural. He's right back for the national team, so it's natural that we'd think of putting him there.”
But Parkhurst wasn't leaving it as open. Does he think he'll remain in the middle in Columbus?
“Definitely,” he said. “I think that's where Gregg envisions me, and I think that's where he thinks it's best for the club, so that's where I expect to play.”