When U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced his final 23-man roster for the FIFA World Cup, L.A. Galaxy forward Landon Donovan stole the headlines, but he was just one of seven players who had to return home after training with the team.
Another one of those players was 30-year-old Michael Parkhurst, who was aiming for his first-ever World Cup finals appearance.
Parkhurst, a defender for the Columbus Crew, said hearing the decision was difficult, but that he won’t let it change how he plays for his club.
“It’s tough, we didn’t know that the cuts were coming that day, so no expectations there,” Parkhurst said after Saturday’s win against the Chicago Fire. “It’s difficult of course, that was the ultimate dream, but you have to bounce back, be a professional. Now my sole focus is the Crew.”
Although Parkhurst did not start in his return to the Crew, his late substitution was met with a standing ovation by the Columbus fans.
Even though he didn’t want to return to Columbus this soon, Parkhurst said he is taking things in stride and that the standing ovation was touching.
“It’s nice to be back home. It’s a few weeks earlier than I anticipate or that I wanted but it’s really good to be home,” Parkhurst said. “It was a really nice ovation when I came on the field, I heard everybody, I was really appreciative of that, the support that everyone’s given me here.”
Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said Parkhurst wanted to start the match, but that with all the travel and training he had undergone recently it would have been dangerous to start him.
“He wanted to play, but I didn’t think it was worth the risk of potential injury after all that travel and all that training. It was good to get him on the field and it was good to have him back.”
Despite missing time while training with the national team, Parkhurst has still started 10 of the 12 games Columbus has played so far this season.
Defender Eric Gehrig said he has only spent a few months working with Parkhurst, but he has already seen the kind of player and person that Parkhurst can be.
“I’ve been with Michael four, five, six months and he’s honestly one of the classiest guys I’ve met in the game of soccer throughout my life,” Gehrig said after the match. “He’s got that thing about him where he walks in and you can tell the genuineness and how nice of a guy he is. He’s been first-class since he’s gotten here, both on and off the field and obviously we feel for him but we’re happy to have him back.”
Parkhurst added that one thing that has comforted him since missing out on the World Cup, is that he feels he did everything he could to make an impression.
“I don’t think there’s anything I could have done more, I don’t think that was anything negative that was on my part that made him not choose me,” Parkhurst said. “I just think that his mind was set up even before the camp was started … That makes it a little easier for me as well, knowing that I don’t think I could have done anything else.”
The defender’s next opportunity to start will come next week when the Crew travel to take on Toronto FC next Saturday at 5 p.m.
Even if he does start the match on the bench again though, for Parkhurst it is just nice being back with his teammates.
“It’s good to be back around the guys, I wanted to get back here and get back to business as quick as possible to take the mind off it and focus on the Crew.”