Keaton Parks - NYCFC - Tongue out
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NYCFC's Keaton Parks happy to quiet teammates' trash talk after first MLS goal

Keaton Parks had already emerged as a key cog for Eastern Conference-leading New York City FC before Saturday's match against the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium.

Now, Parks has officially opened his MLS account coming off Saturday's first-half equalizer in NYCFC's eventual 2-1 victory. The 22-year-old central midfielder doesn't necessarily need to be stuffing the stat sheet to be effective, but after the match, Parks said he still felt a sense of relief at getting the first one out of the way after seeing a handful of good chances fall by the wayside earlier this season.

"I get a lot of jokes around the locker room that I haven’t scored yet," Parks said. "I’ve had chances and some of them pretty easy. I missed a lot of chances, but it feels really good now and they can’t talk trash anymore.”

The debut tally came in the 40th minute after he set up teammate Gary Mackay-Steven with a look on goal at the back end of a counterattack before cashing home the rebound after Mackay-Steven had the attempt saved. Alexandru Mitrita would add the game-winner for NYCFC three minutes later to offset a 20th-minute opener from San Jose's Chris Wondolowski.

“I was trying to support the ball if there was a rebound," Parks said of the finish. "I was really counting on him [Mackay-Steven] to score the goal after I gave him back the whole run. He [Mackay-Steven] had a good attempt on target and the keeper made a great save. Luckily, I was still there for the rebound and I got my chance on goal. I was just there for any rebounds, any bouncing balls in the box.”

It's the continuation of what has been a breakout campaign for Parks, who has established himself as a mainstay in head coach Dome Torrent in his first MLS season. With Saturday's victory, NYCFC is now 10-2-1 (2.38 ppg) in games where Parks features in the starting lineup, compared to 6-3-8 (1.53 ppg) when he doesn't.

“It is amazing, he deserved it because he could have scored before that against Red Bulls, against New England, but he has gone about the midfield," Torrent said. "He has another quality, for example right now Keaton is able to keep the ball and save the ball. When we need Keaton to play like a No. 10, No. 8, he can play, he can play the No. 6. It is very important because I have said many times that he has improved a lot. I remember, it is not for me, it is for him, it's not for Dome that he improved a lot. I remember when he arrived here, I know how important it is for every single player to play with confidence. He had focus just when he had the ball, and right now he helps our team even when we don’t have the ball. He covers a lot of balls. He is an amazing player right now for our team."