What was a no-brainer is now official: Atlanta United’s first captain to lift MLS Cup, Michael Parkhurst will be back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next year. The club announced today that the veteran center back signed a contract extension shortly after the team’s victory parade this month.
The man they call Parky sat down with ATLUTD.com just moments after putting pen to paper to talk about what last season meant to him and what’s next for the Five Stripes in 2019.
Q: Parky, it’s been a whirlwind month. Talk about what it means to you as someone who’s been to the Cup before but never got to lift it until now?
The playoff run was special. It was amazing to be a part of. Any time you make a run to the cup it’s pretty special. Those weeks of extra training when other teams and players are on vacation and you still get to go out and work every day and keep playing, that’s pretty special. I was a little nervous, you never know what is going to happen in the playoffs. But the entire team stepped up and we played some of the best and hardest soccer we’ve played since the team was created. It was a lot of fun, the final was amazing, the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in and a night I’ll never forget. I’m excited to come back and be a part of the team for year three.
Q: How does it feel to know that you’ll be back for season number three?
I had always wanted to come back. I wanted to get it done earlier, but the time wasn’t right. I had to wait a little bit, busy taking care of business on the field. Everything aligned on the field, off the field I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. Sometimes it goes longer than you want, but I’m happy that I’m going to be back and wearing the jersey again for year three because there’s no better place in MLS to be playing.
Q: You have a family and so much to consider off the field. How does it feel to know you’ll be staying in Atlanta another year?
The family comes into it and we didn’t want to move. It’s difficult to move a family and we love it where we are. People around the city are friendly and so supportive of me and the team, and we feel settled. There was an adjustment in year one and we felt more comfortable year two off the field. It’s nice to know that after Christmas we are staying here. We know the schools, we know the areas and the city, and we feel super comfortable. We love our home, so we’re very happy that we get to stay here.
Q: MLS Cup was the culmination of so much hard work and meant so much to this team and this city. How do you build on that and what’s the next challenge for this team?
The next challenge is not resting on what you did in the past. We are super thrilled we won MLS Cup, it’s a huge achievement for everyone involved with the club. We’re still enjoying that and I’m sure we will for a little while longer. But when the next season starts, it’s another trophy to fight for, multiple to fight for. Before the season even starts we have Concacaf Champions League, a new tournament for the team to be involved with. It’s a chance to go out there and represent the league and hopefully do something that no team has done before. That would be fun, that’s the next challenge in front of us.
Q: You mentioned Concacaf Champions League –– what specific challenges does that competition present that the team will have to overcome this season?
I played in Concacaf a long time ago with New England, it’s a little different now. It’s nice that it’s a one-on-one matchup home and away where you don’t have to do the group stage. So you get right into it. There’s no easy games. Thankfully we have the experience of playing home and away games and what that entails. But it’s going to be difficult. Going down to the countries in Concacaf is never easy. I’m sure we’re the favorite going up against a team in Costa Rica, but that doesn’t mean that’s going to be easy. These are difficult places to play, they play with a ton of passion with very supportive crowds. It’ll be a challenge for the team to see how we compete outside the realm of MLS. We expect ourselves to represent our team and the league as well.
Q: Any message for the fans?
Just thank you for making this the most memorable season of my career. It’s our trophy, but I truly believe this is everyone’s trophy, everyone involved. That’s players, coaches, staff at the club, the fans, we’re all a part of the club and fighting for the same goal, cheering for the same goal. So enjoy that trophy because it belongs to all of us.