Bocanegra: Michael Parkhurst brings wealth of experience to Atlanta United

All of the starting jobs might technically be up for grabs when Atlanta United go into their first MLS preseason -- but the way the front office is talking, it sounds as though veteran defender Michael Parkhurst has an inside track to play a key role for the expansion side in 2017.

"Parkhurst, for us, is a veteran leader, a crucial position in the team down the spine," technical director Carlos Bocanegra told reporters during a conference call on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft. "He's got national team experience. He has MLS experience. He's got European experience -- and on top of that, he's a great guy: good leader in the locker room, good person, good club image.

"And he also plays well out of the back, which suits our style. So he was a great piece for us to get in that trade."

The 32-year-old Parkhurst, the 2005 MLS Rookie of the Year and the 2007 MLS Defender of the Year, was one of four players acquired from other MLS clubs in Sunday's trade window, coming over from Columbus Crew SC.

Atlanta United also acquired forward Romario Williams (Montreal Impact) and midfielders Harrison Heath (Orlando City SC) and Kevin Kratz (Philadelphia Union), along with making separate deals for an extra international slot for the 2017 and 2018 seasons and for Targeted Allocation Money.

The value of experience in MLS will be one of the factors considered in Atlanta United's approach to Tuesday's expansion draft, said director of soccer operations Paul McDonough -- who went through another expansion draft just two years ago when Orlando City SC came into the league.

"I think certainly, the MLS experience, we weren't heavy on that in Orlando," McDonough said. "That probably turned out to be a mistake. Our goals are to come out of the block and be very competitive, so we understand the importance of MLS experience and competition."

Bocanegra agreed, saying off-pitch intangibles are enhanced by experience in the league as well.

"MLS experience is important for our team on the field," he said, "but also in the locker room, with the uniqueness of MLS. So with the guys on the board, we're pretty open to anything -- which is great, because we don't have any starters on the field right now. We have all 11 spots open for competition, and the guys coming in in preseason are going to have to earn those spots."