A club nine matches into its inaugural season, Atlanta United’s defensive unit is led by MLS veteran and team captain Michael Parkhurst. With more than two-hundred professional appearances under his belt, the 33-year-old defender isn't a stranger to commanding the pitch.
“Parky is a very good defender. The way he plays with the ball is why they signed him; he is one of the best in the league,” says Tyrone Mears, the team’s right back.
But his foot work isn't the only reason he is a crucial component to Tata Martino's style of play.
“Coach wants us to play out of the back and Parky is such an intelligent defender,” said Mears, “he's not the biggest guy out there but he’s always making good interceptions with great positioning -- he’s very, very good.”
Parkhurst doesn't only lead the back line for the MLS expansion side, he leads the entire squad.
Mears explains the poise of his team captain, “Parky is very calm, he is the type of leader who leads by example. I have had captains in the past who were very vocal, talked a lot, shouted a lot- Parky isn't like that, he's very calm.”
Atlanta United’s captain maintains control on and off the pitch with a calm demeanor but he also presents an approachable repertoire toward his teammates.
“Parky is a guy that any player can approach and talk to and get an honest answer out of. He is perfect for a team like ours that has different guys coming from different parts of the world- and young guys who when things aren’t going well they need an arm around the shoulder- they will get just that from him,” said Mears.
Atlanta have confidence in their captain and know that moving forward he will always have their backs.
“Part of the job is to defend his teammates on the pitch, he will always stick up for the guys,” said Mears. “A lot has gone against us on the pitch and we have made some errors that have cost us, it’s important that Parky is the one to approach the refs and handle it for us which he doesn't hesitate to do.”
Behind the leadership of Parkhurst, the expansion side will look to earn three points this weekend when they travel across the country to face the Portland Timbers. Sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, Atlanta United hopes to secure the road win before heading back to a sold out crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium on May 20 against the Houston Dynamo.