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Parkhurst adds leadership, brains to Crew backline

Berhalter hopes USMNT defender can make instant impact in 2014

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For Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter it was a no-brainer. 

While there are several talented centerback prospects that could be available with the fourth overall pick in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, none of the players coming out of college could have made the immediate impact in 2014 that U.S. Men's National Team defender Michael Parkhurst could and can. It only made sense for Berhalter and his staff to deal the pick to the New England Revolution for the right to sign the versatile defender. 

"We rated what we could potentially get out of the fourth pick versus Michael Parkhurst," Berhalter said over the phone from the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale Monday morning. "We're satisfied. He's a strong performer and strong addition to our team."

Not known for his size, standing only 5-foot-11 and weighing 159 pounds, Parkhurst has made his bones throughout his nine-year professional career with the New England Revolution, F.C. Nordsjælland in the Danish Superliga and German Bundesliga side Augsburg by bringing a cerebral presence to his clubs' defenses. His versatility to play at either rightback or in central defense has made him a regular call-up in Jürgen Klinsmann's tenure as Head Coach of the U.S. Men's National Team.

Berhalter feels Parkhurst will fit better at centerback along the Crew backline, and his versatility and leadership qualities will be an asset for the Black & Gold.

"Tactically, he's very good," Berhalter said. "He's clever, he can read the game very well. He makes things look easy. When you're that much ahead of the game, you don't have to be as physical. He solves a lot of problems with his mind. 

"I like the versatility," continued Berhalter. "I like the fact that we can feel very comfortable playing him at rightback and feel just as comfortable playing him in the center. I expect in the long-term for him to be a centerback, but he can certainly play rightback. He knows MLS, he knows international football. He's a National Team player. He's a very intelligent player, a leader. You can go on and on. He checks a lot of boxes and he's going to be valuable in building our team."

Having earned 44 caps and a spot on two World Cup rosters as a player himself, Berhalter knows the start of the 2014 will be crucial for Parkhurst's chances to represent his country in Brazil this summer. The Sporting Director and Head Coach is prepared to do whatever he can to ensure Parkhurst has a place on Klinsmann's roster in June.

"We're committed to helping him make the World Cup roster," Berhalter said. "We'd be proud to have a representative on the World Cup team from the Columbus Crew. We're going to do everything in our power to help him make the team."