United State Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann today announced his provisionary 30-man squad in preparation for this summer's FIFA World Cup Finals. One member of that squad was Columbus Crew defender Michael Parkhurst.
"I'm honored, I'm excited, and I'm [really] looking forward to getting out to camp," Parkhurst said after the announcement.
"It's been a long process and I'm thankful that it's here and I can focus solely on the National Team now and hopefully being a part of the team that goes to Brazil."
The Crew captain has been one of the most consistent players this season, playing every minute for the Black and Gold. Parkhurst was acquired in the offseason from FC Augsburg to help fill the void left by departed center back Chad Marshall.
The defender has represented the United State internationally 25 times since making his debut in 2007. He has been a member of the 2007 and 2013 Gold Cup winning teams and a 2009 runner up. This will be Parkhurst's first opportunity to represent his country on the biggest stage.
Parkhurst will give Klinsmann some flexibility along the back line with his ability to play any of the four positions. It is expected that Klinsmann will use the Black and Gold's center back as an outside defender.
"I think he sees a full back that is capable of playing either the left or the right," Parkhurst said of what the U.S. coach sees in him.
"I hope that the versatility helps me in the end. I don't know - going into camp right now - if I'm fighting for left back or right back, but it doesn't matter for me. Where ever I can help the team. Where ever I can solidify a position in the 11 or the 23, I'll do it."
Parkhurst, who was struggling to find games in Germany, returned to the MLS during the offseason looking to gain minutes in order to prove his merit for the United States. He believes that playing for the Crew has helped him earn this opportunity.
"It definitely helps that the Crew play an attacking style of soccer and that we came out of the gates and we played well," he said. "Even though we've struggled a bit as of late, that start was really important because Jurgen likes guys that are on winning teams."
The recent team struggles didn't stop Klinsmann from selected Parkhurst, who has continued to play well throughout, but that doesn't mean it wasn't difficult balancing the stress of the club's recent slide with the worries of making the 30-man roster.
"To balance the two has been tough overall," Parkhurst said.
"I don't think that I've been any more frustrated with the losing because of the National Team. I wasn't really thinking that these losses are weighing down the chances of me making the team. I was frustrated and upset about the results just as much as any other guys on the team for obvious reasons."
Parkhurst did not hesitate to admit that making the team has been on his mind, but he knew he had to continue to play well in Columbus in order to make the cut.
"It's always tough to focus with the club team knowing that such a big, important tournament is coming up," he confessed. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but they go hand-in-hand. We all needed to be playing well. We all needed to be fresh and sharp with our club teams to have that opportunity with our National Team, but it's been difficult."
Parkhurst departs looking for success in Brazil, but leaves behind a team looking for their first win in seven matches. Parkhurst won't be around to help his team until late June, but he believes the players remaining can do the job.
"I've got full confidence that everyone on the team, it doesn't matter who Gregg puts in there, can step up and play," he said. "It's been tough this last month for us but there's only one way up from here.
"I've got complete confidence in the guys that they'll get results while we're away and put us on a goal roll for when we come back."
The earliest Crew fans could see the defender back in black and gold would be June 28 against FC Dallas, but that is only if the U.S. fails to advance from the group stage. Group G - featuring the U.S., Ghana, Portugal, and Germany - is considered the Group of Death, but Americans have hope their team can find a way to advance.
No matter when it is that Parkhurst finishes in the World Cup, both he and Crew fans hope he comes back to a team in a better position than when he left. Without three members of their defensive unit - Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis were both called up to the Costa Rican National Team - things get more difficult going forward.