Michael Parkhurst could assume Vincent Kompany-type role for Atlanta United
MARIETTA, Ga. — Time waits for no one.
At some point, every athlete falls victim to the ruthless inevitability of age, and Atlanta United FC captain Michael Parkhurst, 35, is under no illusion of the reality that faces him.
Having made over 70 appearances for Atlanta United in his first two years with the club under "Tata" Martino, Parkhurst was one of the first names on the team sheet alongside Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, his center back partner.
But 22-year-old center back Miles Robinson has been one of the Five Stripes’ best players under new manager Frank de Boer, and his rise means there’s more competition for the club captain.
“There’s no hiding it that I’m getting older and you have younger guys that are fitter and stronger coming into their own,” Parkhurst told media at training this week. “It’s a part of what happens, and I understand that. But I’m not going to make it easy for those guys, I want to push them and make sure that they’re earning their spot each and every week and keeping me off the field rightfully.”
Nearly two weeks ago against his former team, Columbus Crew SC, Parkhurst was left out of the starting lineup in a coach’s decision for the first time since joining the club. The Five Stripes lost 2-0.
“If the decision is to play a four and those two guys [Gonzalez Pirez and Robinson] are ahead of me, then I understand that,” said Parkhurst. “I want to play, of course. I’m a competitor and still want to play and still think I can help the team. But if I can help the team coming off the bench or just being there to support, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Parkhurst said he sees himself transitioning into a Vincent Kompany-type role — one with experience who’s influential in the dressing room and on the training pitch. Der Boer will gladly have that kind of experience leading the group.
“Off or on the pitch, he’s a very important player for us. He’s a mentor for Miles and the other defenders like Leandro, and he’s doing a great job,” De Boer said. “I’m very pleased with his attitude. This is part of his role of course. He’s one the most experienced players with Jeff [Larentowicz] and Brad Guzan. You want to have that personality in the dressing room to keep everybody calm.”
If there’s anyone that can mentor Robinson, it’s Parkhurst.
Gonzalez Pirez described to media last week how, for the last two years, Parkhurst was the experienced head on the back line — the role of “the daddy,” as he called it. While Parkhurst may not feature as prominently this season, he doesn’t plan on being any less influential.
“I kind of knew that coming into the season a little bit,” said Parkhurst, who signed a new one-year deal to return to Atlanta this offseason. “You could see that Miles’ progression was on the right trajectory. He’s probably even exceeded expectations so far into the season, and I’m happy for him. I’m going to be there to help him and to push him and help him grow.