The Columbus Crew finally has another recognizable member of the U.S. National Team on its roster.
With the acquisition of defender Michael Parkhurst on Monday, Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter made good on an offseason mission to bring a well-known USMNT player to Columbus for the first time since former winger Robbie Rogers left the squad in 2011.
“Part of our scouting process is to identify all the Americans abroad, especially those who have been playing with the national team, and look at their current situation, look at if they might be leaving or possibly coming back to MLS,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday. “He was one that we identified that potentially wanted to come back, and we got word from his agent that he was, so it was good timing, and he filled the need that we had.”
When the Crew traded away veteran defender Chad Marshall in December, central defense became a clear hole for the club. But Berhalter said the team “absolutely” didn't have the 29-year-old Parkhurst in mind when they made the move at the time, and instead the deal to trade the fourth-overall pick in this week’s MLS SuperDraft to the New England Revolution came about “rather quickly over the course of about a week.”
Though Parkhurst has largely played at rightback for the USMNT, he played centrally for former German club Augsburg and with the Revolution during the early days of his career.
Berhalter said it's likely he'll line up centrally for Columbus.
“I would envision over the long-term he'll probably play more in the center,” Berhatler said. “But that's not to say he can't fill in on the right or play games on the right.”
Along with his ability to play multiple positions across the backline, Parkhurst seems to fit into Berhalter's wishes to build a more technical team with players comfortable with the ball at their feet.
“He's a very intelligent player, he's a very technical player, and he has a lot of versatility,” Berhalter said. “His positioning is great, tactically he's very strong, he's a good organizer. So we feel like we have a good piece.”
The addition of Parkhurst is one of the biggest of the Crew's offseason, but Berhalter said there's enough cap room and flexibility for other significant moves to follow, though the defense may be nearing completion.
“[The defense is] getting there,” he said. “But we're moving toward finishing that up, and we feel like the group is coming together. We might add some pieces, but it may or may not be in defense. ... We have [cap] room. Part of this plan is to create space, so we have it.”
Parkhurst has an outside chance at making U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the World Cup this summer after appearing in eight games for the team in 2013. The last member of the Crew to make a U.S. roster at the World Cup was Brian McBride in 2002, after Frankie Hejduk tore his ACL just before the 2006 tournament in Germany and both Rogers and Marshall narrowly missed making the 2010 World Cup squad.