Michael Parkhurst is a veteran center back who was acquired from Columbus Crew SC on December 11th, 2016 for $800,000 in GAM (General Allocation Money). Parkhurst has been a journeyman in his career playing in Germany, Denmark, and America. He was selected 9th overall by the New England Revolution in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft where he made 115 appearances over three years and won MLS Defender of the Year in 2007. Then he signed for F.C. Nordsjælland (Denmark 1st league team) where he made 106 appearances and helped F.C. Nordsjælland to win the Danish Cup, their first silverware ever, and the Danish Superliga for the first time in the club’s history.
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He then went to Augsburg, in Germany, on a free transfer but only made two appearances. His MLS rights were then traded to Columbus Crew where he made 108 appearances and was named to the MLS All-Star Team and named captain. Parkhurst has also played for the United States Men’s National team with 25 caps. His National Team debut came in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Trinidad & Tobago on June 9, 2007. He was a member of the 2007 and 2013 Gold Cup Champion teams as well as the squad that finished runner-up in the 2009 tournament.He was Atlanta United’s first captain in their history and made 34 appearances for the five stripes.
Michael Parkhurst was awarded the captain’s armband in 2017 for Atlanta United mainly due to his veteran status. He started 33 times in MLS competition for the five stripes and 1 substitute appearance. He had a great work ethic overall and really worked on fitting in to Tata’s system. He did that extremely well as he excelled as a passer finishing 9th in passing success percentage among defenders with a success rate of 86%. He was suprisingly accurate when passing it long with a success rate of 61% but also was great when passing to his center back pairing and nearby teamates as he had a 93% success rate with about 40 accurate short passes per game. He overall was decent in defense as he had about 4.2 clearances per game, 1.4 interceptions per game, and 1.2 blocks* per game.
Parkhurst is a very technical player, but isn’t flashy which makes him stand out in this team. He was a very reliable center back last year and helped his teammates by providing options for them to be creative. It was extremely evident as his traditional center back play allowed his partner LGP to roam free as he moved forwards more. Parky, as captain, proved a great choice by Tata as he provide a lot of stability in a team that was getting to know each other.
*Shots, Crosses, and Passes
I expect him to play just as well this year but there are a few things he needs to work on. First of all, he needs to work on the own goals. He was tied for first in own goals with 2 in MLS and really needs to work on it. It happened twice against D.C. United and did cost Atlanta the game one of the times. It might be a case of him just being in the wrong spot at the wrong time but we certainly could do without it. Another thing he needs to work on is dribbling. He only had 7 attempted dribbles this year and had 6 successful dribbles. For comparison, his center back partner LGP attempted 60 dribbles this year. While Parkhurst was more successful in his dribbles, he needs to get much better dribbling out of the back as it is one of the main facets of a center back’s play in Tata’s style.
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Although Parky was great as a passer this year, none of his passes were assists and only 5 of them were “key” passes. He only had 5 key passes this whole year and 0 assists. While he is a center back, he does need to make some key passes instead of the usual short passes but it is really not a huge deal. The biggest thing he needs to work on is winning aerials. He had an aerial win rate of 30% and only won .4 aerials a game. Winning .4 aerials a game is 222nd in the MLS out of 330 players. Part of it comes from him being 5′ 11″but Kevin Doyle is the same height and wins more aerials and has a better win rate. If Parky can improve on these things he will most likely make it to another MLS All-Star game.
I think overall Parkhurst had a decent year. He was a good defender but he didn’t win many aerial duels and didn’ lunge into tackles and didn’t win many. Those are the only two reasons he didn’t get an A for last year but they are definitely fixable.
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Parkhurst will most likely remain the captain of the five stripes and will continue to try to hold the team together. I think he can really improve next year despite his age. I fully expect his minutes to reduce though as Tata makes some changes to the back line. I think next year he will most likely have a higher grade as his work ethic, concentration, and determination is unrivaled on the team and in the league.