After a full year of exciting signings, trades, draft picks and other acquisitions, the anticipation is finally over as Atlanta United has prepared its roster for the 2017 inaugural season. Now, with a full squad to field, the final piece of the puzzle is a designated leader to organize, motivate, and unify the team.
Today that void was filled. Atlanta United announced that Michael Parkhurst will be the club’s first ever team captain. The 33-year-old center back, who joined Atlanta in December via trade with Columbus Crew SC, brings a wealth of experience to the expansion club including stints in MLS and Europe, as well as 25 caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
At the training field, Atlanta United Head Coach Tata Martino and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra delivered the good news first.
“The qualities you bring on the field, off the field, we know it’s important for us being a new club in the community and for Atlanta as well,” said Bocanegra. “We’re proud of you.”
Martino reiterated Bocanegra’s statement by telling Parkhurst that the honor and position was “merecido” meaning “deserved” in Spanish.
The captain title is no handout. It’s bestowed to those who have earned the respect of not only the head coach, but the rest of his teammates as well. It’s a position that requires specific characteristics and attributes including the ability to lead, communicate, and solidify a group as one cohesive whole.
“It’s a great honor,” said Parkhurst. As Crew SC’s captain for each of the last three years, this is not Parkhurst’s first run at the job. However, this task will prove much different than the previous, as it is an expansion club with a freshly assembled team, a plethora of young talent, and new coaching staff.
“The first ever captain of Atlanta United is an important appointment for the Club,” said President Darren Eales. “In Michael we have a brilliant captain and leader both on and off the pitch.”
It’s clear that Parkhurst holds the belief and the confidence of everyone involved in the Atlanta organization. There is a lot of work to be done on and off the field and a great challenge lies ahead, but Michael Parkhurst is ready to spearhead his team as they begin their journey through their inaugural season in MLS.
Ironically enough, his very first match as team captain will be against his former club when Atlanta United face Columbus Crew SC tomorrow in the Carolina Challenge Cup, Charleston Battery’s annual preseason tournament held in South Carolina.