BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, November 17, 2011
Michael Parkhurst has been a key part of FC Nordsjaelland's success this season and after signing a contract extension this week, he is ready to lead the club's push to the top of the Danish table.
Parkhurst, 27, has been enjoying a very strong season in the Danish Superliga with Nordsjaelland as the club now sits in second place.
Parkhurst's contract was set to expire at the end of December but with the team currently pushing for a potential spot in next year's Champions League, he decided to sign a one year extension to remain in Denmark.
"It feels good," Parkhurst told YA from Denmark. "I am very relieved that the talks are over because it's been a stressful time. I'm excited the deal worked out and things are going really well at the club right now. It can be a real special season and it's something I wanted to be part of."
While he has played most of his career as a central defender, Parkhurst has predominately played at right back this past season for Nordsjaelland. The Rhode Island native has started every one of the club's games and he has been integral in the team having the best defense in Denmark.
Through the first 15 rounds of the season, Nordsjaelland's backline have only allowed 12 goals and Parkhurst is confident this can continue as the season moves forward.
"I think we added a couple of key pieces during the offseason," Parkhurst said of the defense. "They've come into the starting lineup and have provided a bit more stability. The four of us in the back have been playing well over the past 10 games. The more we've played together, the more rhythm we've been getting. The entire team knows what we are doing defensively."
Despite the impressive defensive efforts of Nordsjaelland this season, Parkhurst insists that the team is more attacking in its nature and approach to the game.
"We still see ourselves as an attacking team," Parkhurst said frankly. "We make sure we're organized [in the back] and don't allow any counters but we're attacking more than we are defending. We keep good possession as well and that helps. That puts less stress on the defense."
After playing most of his career in central defense, Parkhurst has played numerous positions in 2011 from left-back, to right back, and central midfield.
This past season however, he has settled in at right back at it has allowed him to push forward more than he ever has in his career. Parkhurst enjoys playing right back even though he is still getting used to it.
"I am still comfortable in the center because I've played most of my career there," the Rhode Island native discussed. "But the more I play at right back, the more comfortable I get. I have different responsibilities and I'm getting into the attack. That's a big part of how this club plays. I get to take a bit more of a risk playing outside. I am enjoying it."
One aspect of his game that Parkhurst is still working hard on is his crossing. After never playing right back before, he has learned the position quickly and he even picked up an assist in recent weeks.
"It's improving," Parkhurst said of his crossing ability. "It comes with time but the more I play, the better I'll get at it. But we're not a team that gets it wide and whips it in every time. That's not our style so it's not like I'm sending in 10 crosses a game. But it's an important part of the game."
Parkhurst freely admits that he is playing the best soccer of his career and is a superior player now than when he left MLS three years ago.
His improved game saw him earn interest from other clubs but he chose to return to Nordsjaelland because he is happy off the field and wants to be part of the team's Champions League push.
"The ambition is high right now," Parkhurst said. "We had high ambitions at the beginning of the season but we've exceeded those ambitions. Second place would get us into the Champions League qualifiers. That would obviously be a dream. There is no reason why we can't do it based on where we are now. Copenhagen is probably at a higher level than everyone else but we've shown that we can beat them."
Parkhurst's season has also put him back in the discussion for a return to the US national team. He has earned nine caps in his career with the last being in 2010 in a friendly against Colombia. The former Wake Forest Deamon Deacon is still yet to hear from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann who took over in August.
With Parkhurst enjoying a career year in a top team in Denmark and the US national team struggling in the backline with aging players, the possibility is there for him to return and play a key part. He is optimistic his strong play will eventually make it mpossible for Klinsmann to ignore. At the same time, however, he is not stressed about it.
"I haven't spoken with [Jurgen]," Parkhurst concluded. "But of course I would like to be back in the fold and get another opportunity. But it's not something that I stress about or think about a ton. There is really nothing I can other than go out here on a weekly basis and play well. The better the team does and the better I do individually - I know eventually they'll notice and I'll get a call. I'll be ready."
Parkhurst and Nordsjaelland host ninth place Sonderjyske this Sunday.