SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Jurgen Klinsmann’s edict seemed unwavering: If you’re not playing for your club, you won’t be playing for your country.
But sometime exceptions – especially when injury troubles gut the ranks of viable, club-seasoned options – have to be made. Fortunately for Michael Parkhurst, the US national team's need for a right back ahead of matches against Costa Rica and Mexico trumped his lack of match sharpness at Bundesliga side Augsburg.
That doesn’t mean Parkhurst wasn’t still a tad surprised to find himself training with the squad on Wednesday, though, just days after his bid to find a new home on transfer deadline day failed to come together.
“A bit [surprised],” Parkhurst admitted before Wednesday’s training session in Costa Rica. “Of course, Klinsmann prefers guys to be playing, but right back is open right now, especially with [Brad Evans’] injury. That opened the door a bit for me. I’m just happy to be here having fun playing. If I can get a couple of games, that would be great.”
Parkhurst wasn’t initially on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster, but Evans suffered a calf strain against Columbus, forcing the US boss to look elsewhere for cover at right back.
The former New England Revolution defender was the obvious choice after starting five of six games for Klinsmann during the Americans’ run to the Gold Cup title this summer. Evans, meanwhile, recently established himself as first choice in World Cup qualifying, starting in victories against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras and high-profile friendlies against Belgium, Germany and Bosnia. Parkhurst’s only starts in this qualifying cycle came in late 2012 against Jamaica and Guatemala.
Of course, Geoff Cameron has a legitimate claim to the position he's played for the past year at Stoke City as well, making it almost certainly a two-horse race for minutes against Costa Rica and Mexico.
All in all, there is no telling how the competition will shake out as Brazil 2014 approaches, but Parkhurst knows his opportunity to impress is now with Evans back home nursing an untimely injury. After that, it’s also clear he has to find a solution to his club woes.
“The position is open right now on the national team. I’m right there,” Parkhurst said. “Of course, I know it’s disappointing not to be playing for your club team, but I couldn’t just go anywhere to find games. I needed it to be the right situation. That didn’t happen, so I’ll just stick with it for now, hope I get some games with the reserve team and in four months move then.”
With it clear that opportunities weren’t coming with Augsburg after making just two appearances since joining in the winter transfer window, Parkhurst said his agent fielded interest from a few 2.Bundesliga clubs and Brondby in Denmark, an opportunity he declined due to concerns about the club’s finances, while reports also placed Italian club Lazio in the running.
And although he landed in Miami to meet up with his US teammates with a few hours left in the window and discussions still ongoing, nothing concrete materialized, meaning he’ll spend his time playing with the Augsburg reserves until the winter window opens once again.
That’s quite the reversal of fortune from last December, when he arrived in Augsburg as a free agent with promises of playing time ahead of the stretch run ahead of the World Cup only to find the path blocked by club captain Paul Verhaegh.
“I went there expecting to play right away, and that’s what they had told me. It’s disappointing,” Parkhurst said. “I had a chance there. I played a couple games then I came down with a really bad illness and missed two games. Ever since then, I’ve never had a chance again.
"It’s one of those things. Not every coach loves you. I’m still going to work my ass off in training every day and try to prove him wrong. It’s not a good outlook for me at Augsburg.”