New England Soccer Today

Parkhurst Values 4th Try at MLS Cup

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Columbus Crew SC skipper Michael Parkurst knows the road to the MLS Cup final better than most. But he admits that Sunday’s showdown against Portland will not be like his first three trips.

After playing in three straight finals for the New England Revolution (2005-2007) – and coming up short on each occasion – the Providence, R.I. native told the media on Friday that title match no. 4 will carry more significance for him, no matter the outcome.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Parkhurst said. “When you get a little older, you value it a little bit more. I didn’t take it for granted those first three times in MLS Cup, but at the same time, now it’s different.”

It’s fair to say much has changed since Parkhurst’s last trip to the Cup final, one in which he was a fresh-faced 23-year-old defender on the Revolution back line in 2007.

Aside from the facial hair, the now 31-year-old center back boasts European experience, which he gained from stints with Danish side Nordsjælland and Bundesliga’s Augsburg. That, and the fact that he’s no longer playing a short drive from his home state, where he starred at the youth level for Bayside FC, also represents a significant change.

But Parkhurst also mentioned that the journey to the final itself is more challenging than the one he encountered while with the Revolution during the mid-2000s.

“It’s a harder path now than it was,” Parkhurst said. “It’s more games in the playoffs. It’s double leg in the conference final. I think all the experiences makes you value it more, especially to be able to play it at home.”

As tough as the path was for Parkhurst and his Crew SC teammates, playing the final in front of friendly faces at MAPFRE Stadium is one perk they’re embracing.

After knocking off the Red Bulls in the Conference Finals, Columbus claimed the right to host the final by virtue of its second-place regular finish. The prospect of awarding the final to the higher seed among to Conference winners didn’t come into play until the league changed its playoff structure in 2011.

“It’s different than it was a long time ago,” Parkhurst said. “I like the new format. We expect it to be an awesome atmosphere, and really push us. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”

Should Parkhurst find himself raising the MLS Cup trophy following Sunday’s final instead of watching his foes do it, it’s fair to say that the fourth time will indeed be different.

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