Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
Michael Parkhurst knew long ago that this winter would be the most important of his career, what with his contract ending and a free transfer looming. With a chance to play in the UEFA Champions League, in a loaded group, Parkhurst knew that if he played well he would have a great opportunity to impress scouts and improve his options.
Parkhurst made the most of his opportunities, playing well in Champions League match-ups against Juventus and Chelsea for FC Nordsjaelland, and while the Danish champions were eliminated in the group stage, Parkhurst did enough to draw interest from clubs in Germany, Spain, Italy and England.
“It definitely helps you as a player because you learn how good you are right off the bat,” Parkhurst said. “You have to be at the top level in order to play against those guys and I feel, overall, I helped my stock more than hurt it.
“I thought I had a couple of really good performances, especially the Chelsea home game,” Parkhurst said. “I feel like that was the first time that we went up against the best in the world and you measure yourself against them and I feel that most of the game, and in most of the minutes, I was competing right alongside of them.
“I feel like I can compete with them. I feel I can take the next step and compete on the next level.”
Parkhurst’s performances didn’t go unnoticed. Along with earning UEFA Champions League Team of the Week honors for his showing in Nordsjaelland’s 1-1 draw vs. Juventus, Parkhurst caught the eye of scouts who were both impressed by his play and intrigued by his impending free agency.
“We have an offer on the table from Germany, but we want to take our time a little bit and make sure we get the best scenario for myself in terms of taking care of my family financially, being in a decent city, having a good chance to play,” Parkhurst said. “We don’t want to jump at the first thing, but at the same time we don’t want to wait too long and lose out on something.”
The 28-year-old U.S. national team defender has spent four years with Nordsjaelland, but admits he is ready for a bigger challenge in a stronger league, and his success against teams like Chelsea and Juventus has only served to boost his confidence and belief that he can play in a stronger league.
“You always have that self confidence that you can do it, but it’s nice get that experience of facing the best,” Parkhurst said. “You just hope that someone notices and someone appreciates what I have to give and hopefully fit into their plans.”
The second-half of 2012 has been a memorable time for Parkhurst, who not only enjoyed success in UEFA Champions League, he also earned a start for the U.S. Men’s National Team in its most important game of the year, a Hexagonal-clinching victory against Guatemala in October. Despite playing out of position at left back, Parkhurst held his own in the U.S. victory.
Parkhurst considers his quest for a place on the U.S. World Cup team in 2014 as a top priority, and a reason why he is eager to test himself in stronger leagues even though a return to MLS at some point in his career is likely.
“That’s why I’m over here in Europe, to get the experience to help me with the national team,” Parkhurst said. “Living in the U.S. is easier, and it would be easier for my family to go back to the states and finish my career, but being in Europe gives me a better opportunity with the national team.
“I want to be a part of the national team in qualifying next year, I want to help the team qualify and I want to be a part of the team that goes to Brazil,” Parkhurst said. “I know the competition is good for places, and I know there are young guys coming up. You have guys like Timmy Chandler and Eric Lichaj. I just want to make sure my name is still in there and that I’m an option going forward.”
After the year he has had, and particularly the past few months, Parkhurst has pushed his name into the heart of the national team conversation at fullback, and he stands a very good chance of playing a key role when World Cup qualifying begins in February.
With a free transfer looming, Parkhurst is poised to make the biggest move of his pro career, and if he succeeds in securing a move to a top league like the German Bundesliga, Parkhurst could take a major step toward making 2013 an even better year.