1. Michael Parkhurst
Captain Michael Parkhurst is going to have his hands full on Sunday. For starters, the pitch at Yankee Stadium is the smallest in the league, meaning both teams have less space to operate with. NYCFC are used to their home pitch and know how to utilize that space. It will be up to Parkhurst to organize the back line and slow the Cityzens down.
Parkhurst is having a strong season, so much so that he is a finalist for Defender of the Year. Even at the young age of 34, Parkhurst is turning heads and impressing all those that surround him. His style is the epitome of “work smarter, not harder.” There are numerous times where Parkhurst puts himself in the perfect position to make a play.
Being a veteran MLS player helps as well. Through seven seasons in the league, Parkhurst has 22 appearances in the postseason. That’s over half of a regular season and that experience will prove invaluable.
In fact, that experience has already been shown to Atlanta supporters. In last season’s knockout round match against Columbus Crew, Parkhurst made the play of the game and possibly the season. I attended that match, and as the ball was heading towards goal, you could feel the energy of the fans leave the building. But all of a sudden, the ball came bouncing away from Parkhurst’s foot and immediately the energy from the fans picked up.
Although Atlanta lost in penalties, that play saved the game for the Five Stripes and gave the crowd a moment to remember. We should expect more of the same from Parkhurst starting this Sunday.