For one game, at least, Jurgen Klinsmann’s vision of mobile, distributing center backs was on full display as Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron put in solid performances in a 1-0 US victory over Venezuela last weekend.
Though they weren’t tested often, the back-line tandem rewarded the faith placed in them by their national team manager by making smart movements and providing the primary passes necessary to initiate the US attack – exactly what Klinsmann has been preaching since taking over as manager last summer.
For both players, it was validation for the style of defenders they have become. Cameron won his second-ever US cap and his first start – and perhaps a longer look from Klinsmann.
Parkhurst, meanwhile, took the field in a US shirt for the first time since the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Though it was only a January friendly, his 10th cap is proof positive that being a physically dominant center back in the mold of Oguchi Onyewu or Eddie Pope doesn’t always make you a lock to represent the Red, White and Blue.
“Obviously, I’ve got some limitations physically,” the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Parkhurst told MLSsoccer.com at training last week, “but I try to make up for that with other aspects of my game, and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table if I can. That’s how I have to separate myself from the other defenders.”
The former New England Revolution man has carved out a nice niche as a cultured, thinking-man’s center back with his club, FC Nordsjælland. But despite his success during his three years in the Danish league, Bob Bradley stopped calling his number. Klinsmann’s tactical philosophy has offered the 27-year-old another chance at the international level.
“You try to bring strengths to a team and hopefully fit into system that way,” Parkhurst said. “If that’s the type of player Klinsmann’s looking for and I can fit into the system, well then there’s my chance [to stick].”
Parkhurst and Cameron have cultivated a good working relationship during January camp, and will likely get another run-out on Wednesday at Panama based on their work together over the past three-and-a-half weeks.
Cameron says his center back partner is an excellent example and role model of the dynamic Klinsmann is seeking: Winning a ball and making a good decision of what to do next instead of booting it upfield.
“Mike’s really clever at that, getting out of certain areas [while under] certain pressure,” the Houston Dynamo man told MLSsoccer.com last week. “He plays the simple balls, he plays those great lofted balls right down the line for the forwards and the midfield.”
Parkhurst embraces his reputation for that sort of game, and he’s hopeful Klinsmann’s appreciation for what he brings to the table will translate into future call-ins. But he’s quick to add there’s plenty more to being a good center back at the international level.
“I pride myself on being good on the ball and finding guys out of the back, so of course I fit into the system that way,” he said. “But there’s more to defending than just playing out of the back, and I have to bring the whole package to get more looks.”