Recent camp addition Michael Parkhurst filled the biggest question mark in the U.S. National Team starting lineup Saturday and, in the process, appeared to regain the confidence of coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Parkhurst, who joined camp late after leaving German side Augsburg to join up with the Columbus Crew, received the nod at leftback in the US’ 2-0 win over South Korea. Playing next to regular starters Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans, Parkhurst helped the much-discussed backline keep a clean sheet – and he may have made a statement in the process.
The 30-year-old defender had a couple complicated moments Saturday in his first game action since a reserve league match with Augsburg in early November, but the overall feeling was a positive one as he took the first step toward what could be a spot on the 23-man World Cup roster.
“There were a few passes I forced that I wish I would have done better with,” Parkhurst told MLSsoccer.com. “It was the first game for me in a very long time and I only had a week with the team, but it was good to get back in the rhythm of things.”
Klinsmann sounded happy to have Parkhurst back in the fold given the role he played in helping the U.S. in 2013.
“For the fact that he didn’t play pretty much for half a year since being a starter in the Gold Cup, went through a tough stretch there with Augsburg, playing leftback instead of his more favored rightback position, I thought he did really well,” Klinsmann told reporters. “That’s what we hope from him.”
Did he do enough to make his case for the next roster?
“We brought into this camp three leftbacks and had a close look at them, all very talented, all played very strong in their MLS seasons, but we didn’t see them at the end of the day on the level of Michael Parkhurst,” Klinsmann explained.
“That’s why Michael was called in, and [the timing was such that] we could see the other three beforehand, but for us coaches, the ranking was clear: that Parky is ahead of all three of them that would have occupied the leftback role. I thought he did fine.”
Parkhurst, who signed with the Crew in an attempt to regain top form and increase his chances of earning a ticket to Brazil, was added to the camp roster last week while Klinsmann cut four defenders: Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill of the Colorado Rapids, and Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic of Sporting Kansas City.
Klute and Sinovic are regular starters at leftback in MLS play, while Michael Harrington, a starter for the Portland Timbers, survived Klinsmann’s cull but spent Saturday as Parkhurst’s backup.
Last year, Parkhurst was a steady presence at right back for the U.S. in the Gold Cup, but with Evans cemented there and DaMarcus Beasley not in camp, the veteran provided a resolution to one of Klinsmann’s biggest qualms heading into the friendly.
“The first game of the year is never going to be perfect, but defensively we did a good job of keeping them in front of us,” Parkhurst said. “We’re happy we got the victory and a shutout. For me personally, it was positive."