In Jurgen Klinsmann's system, playing time is paramount for calls to the national team.
That requirement is hindering the chances of former Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst, who has mostly been a bench player with Augsburg of the German Bundesliga, to develop a concrete role with the US.
Parkhurst will leave Augsburg in the winter if he doesn't become a starter, he stated in an email interview. The US qualified for next summer's World Cup in Brazil last week with a 2-0 win over Mexico, and Parkhurst needs playing time if he hopes to make the trip.
So at Christmastime, he will evaluate his options, including a return to the Revolution, who still own his MLS rights.
Staying in Europe isn't out of the question, either. Though he's only played two games with Augsburg, Parkhurst's résumé is strong enough for him to be a starter elsewhere. In fact, he came close to signing with Italy's Lazio, and a number of other teams, during this summer's transfer window.
"A few things came up on the last day of the transfer window, Lazio being one," said Parkhurst. "It would have been fantastic to join such a storied club but in the end there was not enough time to get a deal done so they will keep an eye on me and maybe if there is still a need for a defender in January we will talk again."
To Parkhurst, it's about getting playing time. Lazio's defensive depth is competitive enough for him not to be a starter. That's something Parkhurst will have to consider if he chooses to leave Augsburg.
But if Parkhurst does leave Germany and finds regular playing time at his next club, Klinsmann may not hesitate to bring him to Brazil.
That's because Parkhurst is a smart, agile player. He's made a career out of effectively defending the world's best players without fouling them. In four MLS seasons, during which he earned Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year honors, he accrued just three yellow cards and no red cards.
After leaving New England in 2008, he signed with Denmark's Nordsjaelland and competed in Champions League with them last season. He never made Bob Bradley's shortlist when he coached the US team from 2006 to 2011, but has emerged as a more than serviceable right back under Klinsmann.
"He had a very tough couple of months because he made that big move into the Bundesliga and then didn't play," acknowledged Klinsmann. "He's a very smart player. He reads the game. He has a wonderful first touch, he can chip the ball into dangerous areas."
"Every player has specific qualities. It's our job as coaches to put those qualities into a team concept. We're glad we were patient with him. It's worth it."
Parkhurst's trade-off for national team call-ups will be positioning. Though he's an adept sweeper, the US is set in central defense. For that reason, his World Cup hopes depend on his skill at right back. Veteran Steve Cherundolo, the US' first-choice right back, is nursing a knee injury. So in the last year, Parkhurst has become one of Klinmsann's go-to options in that position.
"Under Jurgen I am a right back," explained Parkhurst. "That is my position and also the position I think I have the greatest impact on the team. As with every position the competition is difficult but it is a position where the starting spot is there for the taking."
During the Gold Cup, Parkhurst played right back and was sterling defensively but showed that he was still learning how to run up the flank and join the attack. But Klinsmann has faith in Parkhurst's ability and could reward him with a more permanent spot on the team if he adapts to his new position.
"Jurgen knows what I can bring to the table both defensively and offensively. For sure offensively, he likes his outside backs to get forward and help the attack. I think this is something I cam capable of doing perhaps more so than some of my competition."
Klinsmann will likely test his depth and experiment with new players for the US' last two World Cup qualifiers. After qualification officially ends on Oct. 15, the US will train for the World Cup through friendlies. That's when Parkhurst will have to shine.
"Although it is expected of us to qualify, every four years the competition improves and the process becomes more difficult," added Parkhurst. "So to qualify with two games still left is a great success. We are all looking forward to Brazil and hoping that we can put together a memorable and successful run there."
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