Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst, typically very thoughtful when answering questions, was succinct when asked if he could play left fullback seven more times in the next 27 days.
“No,” the 35-year old said.
But for one night, he manned the position in helping Atlanta United defeat Sporting KC 3-0 on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. It was the first time in his MLS career, now 288 starts long, that he started at left back. He made eight starts for Nordsjaelland in Denmark almost 10 years ago and remembers playing left back for the U.S. men’s national team in a Gold Cup qualifier in 2011 in the same stadium the team played in on Sunday.
Parkhurst rolled back the years for one night anyway.
Manager Frank de Boer said he started Parkhurst instead of the left-footed Brek Shea on the left because of Sporting KC’s Johnny Russell. If Russell cut in from right to left, which he typically does, he would be going into Parkhurst’s stronger right foot.
“He’s an intelligent player and you can use him in a lot of places and now he did a great job to play as a left fullback,” de Boer said.
Parkhurst mostly shut down Russell, holding him to one shot on goal.
“The right and the left, for me, it doesn’t matter,” Parkhurst said. “I can cut in on the right if I’m getting pressured.
“I’m not getting down the line and whipping in crosses any way.”
Parkhurst, who this season has also started games at centerback and right fullback, did get forward quite a bit because Sporting KC was mostly content to sit back and try to counter.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan appreciated Parkhurst’s effort.
“He’s going to need about four weeks to recover, but he was very good,” Guzan said. “He’s the type of guy you can ask to play anywhere, and he’ll do the job. He’s very good. It’s not down to his athleticism. It’s down to his brain and his ability to understand the game and understand different positions, understand different things being asked of him. For someone to go out and be asked to play fullback in the system and style of how we want to play and how our fullbacks want to get forward, I thought he was very good. Big props to him.”
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