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Jan 8, 2009

Parkhurst regrets not winning the MLS Cup

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of an interview with former New England Revolution center back Michael Parkhurst, who recently made the move to Danish SuperLiga side Nordsjælland. Parkhurst speaks of his hopes that his experience in Europe can help his international career and reflects on his time in MLS with New England. In Part 1, he spoke about his move to the Danish league.

ESPNsoccernet: Can this move help your national-team chances? Were you in consideration for the January camp?

Michael Parkhurst: Regarding the January camp, I spoke with the club about it, and they just thought that with my being a new player, it was important that I got in there right away to get acclimated with the team. I was perfectly fine with that. Obviously, any time you can be part of the national-team camp is great. But the club is first and foremost right now, so I understand they want me there straightaway.

The January camp didn't work out, but in the long run, I think [the move] will help. I know that I don't fit the traditional bill of a center back, so the better the competition I can play against, the better it is for me so I can prove myself against better teams and better players. I think that will help me out, maybe to get me more chances in the future.

It is tough to say, and it's all about when you get called in, how you do. Hopefully, once I get to Europe I play well, and that will lead to more call-ups and to me proving myself once I do.

ESPNsoccernet: Looking back on your time in New England, how much have you improved as a player?

MP: There are so many different aspects of the game that you don't realize when you are playing at the high school or collegiate level. It is so much different playing professionally. Where to begin? I think the biggest thing coming out of college was getting used to the speed of play. Everybody saw the game a little bit quicker and played a little bit faster, and if you didn't, you were going to get tackled a lot harder than you were used to.

The caliber of players you go up against, too. I don't remember playing against too many Brian Chings or Nate Jaquas in college. Learning how to deal with that type of player, the bigger guy who is really good in the air. Even if you come across players with that size in college, they haven't got much else and you can get around them a little bit easier. But someone like Ching is very good with his feet as well, so learning how to deal with that on a day-to-day basis was a challenge.

Then there are the fast guys, like [FC Dallas striker Jeff] Cunningham and [Los Angeles Galaxy forward] Landon [Donovan]. Dealing with pace, it's little things like positioning and timing. [Revolution coach] Steve [Nicol] was very good at teaching me and showing me where to be, especially while we are attacking. One of the biggest things I learned was to make sure we were organized defensively against a counter when we were attacking and not to just watch the ball.

ESPNsoccernet: The knock on you has been that you're not physically equipped to succeed in more physical leagues. You dealt with it OK in MLS. Will Europe be a different proposition?

MP: No matter how hard I work, I'm not going to get any taller, so I have learned how to deal with that. Obviously, I can get stronger, and I do work on that. I know a lot of people might be jealous, but it's not easy for me to put on weight and pack on the pounds. I don't want to gain too much because speed is another important aspect of the game.

I think that is one area of the game where the experience of MLS has greatly helped me, dealing with that type of thing every week in matches. Europe is another opportunity for me to show I can deal with it, given my stature. I don't think you have to be the biggest guy to play well, and hopefully I can continue to prove that.

There are always people who don't think it can happen, but then I don't think there were too many who expected me, at 155 pounds, to start in a three-man back as a rookie out of college. It's about going out there and showing it. The first step is Denmark, and hopefully there will be more steps after that. I will use the experience I have and learn from the good coaching staff they have over there.

ESPNsoccernet: Steve Nicol drafted you and has helped you develop. What sort of influence has he had?

MP: Stevie is a great manager, and everyone that knows him knows that he is a great guy. He is a total player's coach and somebody you can talk to. Off the field he will joke around and have a laugh and get to know you. Paul Mariner is the same -- they're both world-class coaches. I could not have gone to a better coaching staff straight out of college, and working with them has helped me a lot as a defender.

Their playing experience has helped them in terms of identifying talent, and I think that helps them see things that other coaches may not. I think that is why they have drafted so well. They see little things that they can work out to bring the best out of players. The environment in New England helps their players play well.

ESPNsoccernet: You were so close to winning the MLS Cup three times. Do you regret that you didn't?

MP: Definitely, absolutely. It would have been great to have been part of the first Revolution team to win an MLS Cup. Who knows when it is going to happen? Hopefully it will be soon, but it would have been great to have been part of the first team to do it. With the talent that we had, we were so close.

Looking back, I think that [2005] was our best opportunity as far as how we were playing and the kind of season that we had. The Galaxy didn't have a very good season before we met them in the final. It's disappointing that we were not able to take advantage of any of our three chances, not that I have regrets about how well I played or how the team played.

Obviously, we went out there and tried our hardest. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen for us for a number of reasons. Looking back, it's a disappointment that I don't have an MLS ring, but it was still a very good four years and a lot of fun to be a part of.

ESPNsoccernet: Could a ring be in your future? Do you think you might return to the league one day?

MP: It is definitely a possibility. Who knows what is going to happen in the future? I could be over there [in Europe] for a year, two years, 10 years. My wife and I don't really have any long-term plans as far as wanting to be "in this country" or "on this continent." We'll just see how it goes.

If Europe goes well and I play well and move on and have a good career over there, maybe I'll finish out over there. I would have no qualms about coming back to MLS, though, because I think it is a very good league and improving every year.

ESPNsoccernet: Finally, should Nordsjælland expect more 50-yard goals like the one with which you broke your MLS scoring duck versus Toronto back in 2007?

MP: They have not brought that up [whether they expect another long goal]! A couple of people over there said they saw the goal, and I told them up front not to expect anymore of those! I think everyone understands that it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Andrew Hush is a soccer researcher for ESPN International. He can be reached at a.hush@yahoo.com.

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