The sight of Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst on the U.S. roster to face Mexico next week reflects the intelligence of the decisions they made months ago.
Both players opted to place their European ambitions on hold and pursue a return to MLS to further their World Cup hopes. Their presence in the 22-man congregation for the date against El Tri in Glendale, Ariz. vindicates their choices over the past few months.
Edu and Parkhurst could not maintain the status quo and expect to earn a spot on the World Cup squad. Even with their pedigrees, they would find it difficult to prepare for Germany, Ghana and Portugal with a handful of reserve appearances and a full regiment of training sessions.
Those concerns simply do not arise in the center of the Columbus back four or the core of the Philadelphia midfield trio. The importance of first-team football on a weekly basis isn’t lost on either player or U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann at this stage. And now both of them are in a position to secure it from now until Brazil.
Although Parkhurst remained in the frame despite his dearth of action given his versatility and proved his worth during the CONCACAF Gold Cup a year ago, Edu’s choice paved the way from him to return from a year out of the reckoning. Klinsmann said in a Q&A with U.S. Soccer that Edu’s decision to join MLS and obtain regular match practice played a critical role in his international recall.
“We’re looking for Mo to show us that sense of urgency,” Klinsmann said. “To come back on loan, get playing time and jump into the Union team, become a leader right away and help them get off on the right foot in MLS shows that he understands that the timing has to be there now if he wants to play.”
Michael Parkhurst swapped the Bundesliga for MLS to advance his World Cup chances in Columbus.
As Klinsmann notes, the mere arrival in MLS isn’t enough for Edu – or Parkhurst or any other player, for that matter – to climb the pecking order. It only provides an opportunity to succeed. Form matters a great deal in the final accounting. Any sort of blip opens the door for someone else to pry their way into the proceedings.
The performance component to this World Cup equation isn’t lost on either player. Parkhurst accepted the captaincy shortly after his arrival and thrust himself into the middle of Columbus’ rebuilding efforts. His displays served as one of the touchstones in the Crew’s bright start of the season. Edu accepted a similar function upon his arrival in Philadelphia. His performance as part of the Union’s midfield trio earned him consideration for this date against Mexico.
Klinsmann highlighted the importance of Edu’s early steps with the Union to his international recall. The decision to include in the ranks gives Edu a chance to push forward yet again over the next few months, according to Klinsmann.
“He could have sat there on the bench at Stoke maybe not playing much, and then there’s no chance for him to get on the World Cup roster,” Klinsmann said. “But he understood that, made the decision to come back and now he’s picking it up. We’re looking forward to have Mo back with us because once he’s in a rhythm, once he is fit and really zoomed in, then he’s a very good player.”
Quality only gets a candidate so far. At the moment, it means Edu – like Parkhurst – now has a chance to impress in the final meaningful friendly before Klinsmann pares down his potential selection. It is an opportunity carved out through foresight and application. Now it is time to take it in order to make all of the maneuvering worthwhile.