Dec 8, 2018 Atlanta: Atlanta United team captain Michael Parkhurst presents owner Arthur Blank the MLS CUP after a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Dec 8, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

de Boer explains Parkhurst’s absence with Atlanta United

As more Atlanta United players regain their health, one of those who has been healthy all season, but isn’t playing much, continues to wait.

That player is Michael Parkhurst, the team captain.

Voted the third-best defender in MLS during last year’s championship-winning season, Parkhurst hasn’t played in Atlanta United’s past seven games across all competitions. 

The 35-year-old centerback has made 14 starts as part of 18 appearances in league games this season. He started 32 last season and 33 in 2017 for Atlanta United.

Manager Frank de Boer said the switch to three centerbacks, combined with a higher press that leaves a lot of space in the back and the need for fast defenders, explains why Parkhurst isn’t playing.

“I want to get him more time because he deserves it,” de Boer said.

De Boer said that the coaching staff has spoken to Parkhurst twice during this stretch to thank him for his continued leadership in training and in the locker room.

“Everyone has a lot of respect for him,” de Boer said. 

After last week’s win against Club America in the Campeones Cup, Jeff Larentowicz, who was the captain for the game, offered Parkhurst the chance to lift the trophy first because he said he “is the captain. Period.” Parkhurst declined, giving Larentowicz the honor.

The team held a 11 vs. 11 scrimmage Wednesday featuring many of the non-starters and some Atlanta United 2 players. De Boer said he wanted players such as Parkhurst, Mo Adams and Hector Villalba, those whose minutes have been limited recently, to stay sharp.

“Hopefully they can make some minutes with the first team,” de Boer said. “We can need them at any moment. The roster will decide if you will be on top at the end of the season.”

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