Before we get to the #SavedTheCrew portion of the proceedings, a happy little preamble.
Michael Parkhurst ushered in the Gregg Berhalter era as captain of the Crew from 2014-2016. He was an MLS All-Star in 2014 and captained the 2015 Eastern Conference championship squad that lost a heartbreaking MLS Cup to the Portland Timbers.
Then again, that’s how it always seemed to go for Parkhurst. He had lost three MLS Cups with the New England Revolution, including one where the Revs took the lead in extra time. Then he lost an MLS Cup in Columbus on a goalkeeping blunder fewer than 30 seconds into the game and an egregiously blown out of bounds call a few minutes later. Bad things happened to Parkhurst’s teams in MLS Cups.
But all that has now changed.
Parkhust captained Atlanta United to an MLS Cup title in 2018, beating the Portland Timbers, 2-0. At long last, Michael Parkhurst is now an MLS Cup champion.
“It still feels really, really good,” he said by phone from 2019 training camp. “I waited a long time, obviously, for that moment and that experience. It was incredible. It was everything I dreamed of and more, probably, especially coming off some tough losses in MLS Cup.”
The lead-up to the 2018 title match gave him a case of deja-Crew, however.
“I was nervous before the game because it was eerily similar to 2015 with Columbus. Beating the Supporters’ Shield winning Red Bulls, hosting MLS Cup, playing the Portland Timbers, being the favorite…so I was nervous for sure.”
One way to ease those nerves is to make the play that turned the game. Parkhurst made a pivotal slide tackle in the middle of the field. The ball caromed directly to Josef Martinez, the Atlanta scoring ace, who then dribbled around the keeper and put Atlanta ahead for good in the 39th minute.
“I got a little fortunate there,” he said. “I was just trying to make a tackle and it just fell to the most dangerous guy on the field. It worked out.”
There’s hardly a person in the world who would argue that Parkhurst wasn’t due for a bounce to go his way in an MLS Cup.
After the game, I noticed the Parky got lots of love on social media from Columbus. Not only was he a well-liked player, but I figured Crew fans understood his journey. After all, the Crew had lost four conference finals before finally breaking through and beating Chicago in 2008 on the way to winning MLS Cup. My amateur psychology aside, Parkhurst noticed the social media mentions from Central Ohio.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “There were a lot of people I played with and against, and then a lot of fans, obviously here in Atlanta, but then Columbus and also New England, so I’m grateful for all of it. I think people understand the hardship that is going to a final and losing, both as a team and as an individual player, so it was definitely nice to feel some love from Columbus. They know what’s it’s like to lose an MLS Cup, just like I do, and also what it’s like to win one. So that’s nice to be able to share that with them.”
Now on to the #SavedTheCrew stuff…
On what it was like to watch the relocation fiasco from afar:
It was difficult. I just felt for the guys on the team and the staff. Even the ticket staff and the medical staff and everyone else behind the scenes. They had to face the unknown for so long. It just seemed like any time I asked someone, nobody had any answers. Nobody knew what was going to happen. And then as it got closer, it just seemed inevitable that the team was going to move to Austin. That’s the information that I was getting, even speaking to a couple of guys on the team. It wasn’t a matter of if. It was a matter of when.
You just felt for everybody. It’s difficult to relocate. I know that because I never wanted to leave Columbus. For guys with families, it’s difficult. Also, just the way everything went down, from the timing of it and the language of it from the beginning. It was a really bad look from the beginning. It didn’t look good for a long time there, but they pulled off something miraculous.
If you’ve followed MLS from the beginning, you think about the original teams. The thought of Columbus not being there just felt wrong. It just felt like an ownership came in with the intention of moving them. For a team that’s been there forever, to do that just irked people and rubbed them the wrong way, and rightfully so. You just feel like, once that new stadium comes to fruition, they could go through a revitalization just like Kansas City, and that’s what we’re all hoping occurs.
On Dr. Pete being part of the ownership group:
He just loves it. He loves the team, obviously. What he’s put into this #SaveTheCrew movement and to spend the money and invest in the club, he’s definitely got the passion for it. Any time you ever had to go in there to see Doc, he always had questions about the team and formations and tactics and ideas. He was more than just a doctor. More than a doctor, more than a fan, he is just somebody who breathes the Columbus Crew. I’m so happy that it worked out for him and so many others and that now he gets to be a real difference maker for that club.
On his feelings now that the Crew have been 100% officially saved:
I was so happy. I was so glad for the fanbase there and the guys there. A special group of people made that happen, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s not just the people with the money. The fans that started the #SaveTheCrew movement, they did it, and it’s incredible what they pulled off. We still think of Columbus as home and we plan to move back someday, so I’m thrilled that when that day occurs, I can take my son to Columbus Crew games and that there will still be a team there that we can support. So personally and selfishly, I was happy that we’ll have an MLS team to support when we move back there. I’m just happy that the right thing occurred.
A MASSIVE SEASON is now available as an ebook.