If Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. national team don’t need Michael Parkhurst, the Columbus Crew will gladly take him back to bolster their back line.
The Crew could have their leading defender back from American training camp Saturday night at home to take on the Chicago Fire two days after learning he wouldn’t be joining the national team in Brazil for the World Cup.
"Gutted," Parkhurst said Thursday via Twitter. "At peace tho knowing i did everything i could and made it a tough decision for coaches. All the best to the boys in Brazil."
The Crew (3-4-4) are winless in eight straight and might need Parkhurst against the Fire (2-2-6), who have found some attacking prowess in recent weeks. After a five-goal effort May 10 in their first win of the season in New York, the Fire scored twice in the opening 15 minutes of Sunday’s 2-1 home victory over stingy Sporting Kansas City.
Both goals came from Mike Magee at the penalty spot, giving the 2013 MLS MVP three in three matches after managing one though his first five.
Crew coach Gregg Berhalter knows Magee well after spending the 2009-11 seasons as his teammate with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"He’s a guy where you can’t quite get your hands on him in terms of where he plays on the field," Berhalter told the club’s official website. "He positions himself really well, and he has very good vision in terms of when to make the run, where the space is and finding a pass."
Columbus was without Parkhurst and Costa Rica defender Waylon Francis in Saturday’s 3-3 draw in Portland. It can add Giancarlo Gonzalez to the list this week as the team’s other Costa Rica defender has left to join his country.
Against the Timbers, defensive issues arose at the bookends of the match with Portland taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute and spoiling a potential Columbus victory by tying the match in the 85th.
In between, Columbus striker Federico Higuain found his form with a 14th-minute strike, a goal in first-half stoppage time on a penalty kick and an assist on Ethan Finlay’s tally in the 81st that gave the Crew a second brief lead.
Higuain had gone five matches without impacting the score sheet after managing four goals and two assists in his first five. The Crew are 3-0-2 when he has a goal or an assist and 0-4-2 when he’s held in check.
The Fire could also be without some key names as defender Bakary Soumare (calf) and midfielder Alex (hamstring) are questionable, while forward Patrick Nyarko (knee) is doubtful. Coach Frank Yallop was more hopeful that Magee (calf) and defender Lovel Palmer (kidney stones) would play, but said Sunday’s victory over the defending MLS Cup champion came at a cost.
"I think Sunday took a bit out of our guys," Yallop told the team’s official website. "We’ll assess it and get ready for Saturday’s game. A few guys are banged up but it gives opportunities to other players to play."
The Eastern Conference rivals met four times last season, including a U.S. Open Cup date, with the Crew’s 3-0 home victory on Sept. 21 snapping the Fire’s five-match winning streak in the series.
Higuain has scored in consecutive matches against Chicago, while Magee struck in two of the three in which he faced Columbus last season.