Atlanta United exit interviews: Michael Parkhurst

1:58 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 Sports
Kathy Willens/AP
Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst (3) and New York City FC forward David Villa (7), of Spain, go for the ball during the first half of a Major League Soccer game Sunday, May 7, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Atlanta United held its season-ending media session on Monday at the training ground in Marietta.

Over the next few days, I’ll post a few stories from interviews with Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra and players Brad Guzan, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba, Julian Gressel and Miguel Almiron.

Here is an excerpt from Michael Parkhurst’s session following the team’s inaugural season. The 33-year-old played in 33 games at centerback:

Q. Have you gotten over the playoff loss?

A. I don’t think we are over it. I don’t think until the season is over and we aren’t watching any more MLS games and then maybe the new season begins you’ll get over it.

It’s an ongoing process.

Q. Talk about the play you made in the Columbus game?

A. I’ve seen it. In my mind, I remember thinking I have a lot of time here. It was more about getting my feet properly set so I wouldn’t put it in the own goal. It was just being in the right place at the right time.

I honestly thought Harrison (Afful) was going to pass the ball across to a teammate so I was trying to get into a good spot to defend that. He didn’t get much on it so it gave me a little bit of time to get there. I was just happy I could help Brad (Guzan) out because he’s been helping us out all season long.

Q. Carlos (Bocanegra) just talked about bringing championships to the city. What does this team need going into next season to improve that probability?

A. Having a year under our belt will definitely be a plus. The core of the team understands what the league is about, what it demands on a weekly basis, the unknowns that MLS can bring.

It’s good that we are going to have a good group of the core together again. They’ve been able to hold onto some guys that are obviously wanted. 

We have to improve. We have to continue to get more players in here that are going to push to start, push to be in the 18 and make the team better.

There is turnover every year. You want to bring in new competition and keep things fresh. I expect that they will do that. That will push us all to be better. That’s the key, you just have to get better year in and year out. Every team in the league will look to get better. The more money in the league every year, teams are going out and spending that and bringing talent in.

Q. I know that you got a lot of points from that stretch of eight games in 24 days, but how much did that take out of you? Were you as physically and mentally sharp for the playoffs as you could have been?

A. It was difficult. It was draining. I’ve never experienced scheduling like that. Obviously, it was out of everyone’s hands. 

It was taxing. We lost a couple of guys during that stretch to injuries. Maybe if we don’t have so many games ... guys did play through it and played a majority of the games. It was difficult.

They were important games. We were fighting for a playoff spot in the beginning and fighting for seeding in the end. Every game was important, as usually they all are, but there’s no doubt that in that final game that we weren’t as fresh or as healthy as you want to be in the playoffs.

Q. What stands out as captain of the club in its first season?

A. The atmosphere at the games. The crowds that we had, the support that we got from everybody. 

A lot of that was built and was there before we even knew it was there. I’d like to think some of it was from the product on the field and the excitement we created out there and those games early in the year. Those games at Mercedes-Benz, we scored a ton of goals in a few games. Knowing that we’ve got a product out there that the city loves, that people really want to get behind and support, just to go out there at every home game and be in front of 40,000 or 70,000 fans it’s really incredible. It’s something that I never want to take for granted and that we are lucky to have.