Both Parker and Long have been called into the latest U.S. national team squad for friendlies against Brazil (Friday, 7:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN) and Mexico (Tuesday, 8:30 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás, UDN). The tandem has quickly become one of MLS's best pairings and now could be set for the chance to test that partnership against the world’s best on Friday at MetLife Stadium.
“When Brazil plays, the world watches,” Parker told MLSsoccer.com. “To have the opportunity to hopefully get some minutes in that kind of a game is going to be huge for us.”
Brazil has brought out all the stars for Friday's match: Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Willian have all been called into the team, an embarrassment of attacking riches.
“It’s a huge honor to be here, and to play against a team like this is something you dream of as a little kid,” Long said. “It’s going to be a great challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Long is set for his first cap while Parker’s international debut came in June, a 29-minute cameo against Ireland before a head-turning 90-minute performance against soon-to-be world champions France. When Long steps on the field with a U.S. badge on his chest for the first time, he’d like it to be next to his RBNY colleague.
“That’d be a big plus for me,” Long said when asked if he hoped to make his debut alongside Parker. “I feel comfortable out there. He’s my partner in crime, playing with him on the club level is just going to make it that much easier to play with him at this level.”
Other members of the squad have taken notice of the pair’s on-field chemistry.
“They get each other,” Gyasi Zardes said. “They have a strong connection. As center backs, it’s important to have a strong connection because you guys have to utilize each other and balance each other. I think their partnership is great for this team.”
When Parker was acquired by New York from Vancouver ahead of this season, he knew it'd take some getting used to a new tactical approach. The Whitecaps feature more of a countering style while the Red Bulls lean on high pressing, and he has transitioned seamlessly, though it wasn't easy.
“It was really difficult at first, completely different styles but I think it’s challenged me in different ways,” Parker said. “With Red Bulls, it’s high press and a lot relies on us in the back to organize. We’re put in 1v1 situations sometimes and to put out fires. That kind of responsibility is huge.”
For Long, his first international call-up comes amid a year of breakthroughs. He was recognized as one of the league’s top defenders in making his first All-Star Game, playing more minutes than any of his teammates in MLS’s 1(5)-1(3) loss on penalties to Juventus. Now, with the hope to make his international debut, Long is on the ascension.
“It’s definitely something I set as my goals. I don’t know if I expected it to all happen at once, but it’s definitely on my goals list,” Long said. “Just happy to keep going forward and striving for more, just happy to be here.”