After a strong start to 2018, Parker eager to continue his breakthrough
Tim Parker has had a great start to the 2018 season for the Red Bulls. Now after two impressive first caps for the U.S. national team, the Long Island native has ambitious goals for the future.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedMORRISTOWN, N.J. - There is no question that the first half of 2018 has been a very good period for Tim Parker. It began with a trade that brought him from Vancouver back close to home with the Red Bulls. It has since coincided with a run to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, a solid first half of the MLS season, and his first two caps for the U.S. national team.
June 27, 2018
June 27, 2018
What has been particularly eye-opening for Parker is not that he has participated in all of these games, but he has been among the team’s better performers. Thus far in the current MLS season, Parker could find himself in the running for the league’s defender of the year as the Red Bulls climb towards the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
But what drew the most attention for Parker was his recent sting with the national team where he made his debut in a 2-1 loss to Ireland and then went the full 90 in a 1-1 draw against World Cup contenders France in Lyon.
After several call-ups in the past where he did not feature, Parker finally was given his first opportunities and made the most of it with a pair of strong performances. The result is now he has put himself in the mix of the team moving forward at the start of the new cycle.
“I never really gave up hope,” Parker told American Soccer Now in New Jersey. “I've just been waiting for my moment. It's really fortunate that it came at the time it did. I think I've found myself in good form in my career. To get a cap against Ireland and then go the full 90 against France was amazing. I was really happy how it ended up happening."
“It's a bit eye opening. Being able to play at that level and feel like you can play at that level is something that is eye opening. Once you get that once, you kind of want to get that again and again. At that level is amazing and you want to keep playing in those types of games.”
At 25, Parker is one of the older players among the next generation that interim head coach Dave Sarachan has called up as part of his effort to introduce talented new players into the team following the failure to qualify for Russia. Still, Parker believes he is in a good position for now as he will still be shy of his 30th birthday by the time Qatar rolls around in 2022.
An alum of St. John’s University in New York, Parker is well aware that the competitions in central defense is tight. John Brooks and Matt Miazga are established players now in Europe and Cameron Carter-Vickers and Erik Palmer-Brown are both very young and recently completed their first full seasons at lower levels while on loan from Tottenham and Manchester City, respectively.
Domestically, there is also competitions from LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman, who impressed for the national team in a win over Bolivia last month as well as Real Salt Lake’s Justen Glad and Philadelphia’s Auston Trusty – who are both likely to feature on the Olympic qualifying team. One such player who is yet to enter the equation is his Red Bulls teammate Aaron but who Parker believes has the talent to be in the mix (“I think he's great player. We've had conversations of wanting to continue to push our defensive level at Red Bull to the point where we are both striving for those national team spots.”)
“I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself. The move home to the Red Bull has challenged me in different ways and made me a better player. Obviously with the World Cup in 2026, that might be too far for me but I have my sights set on 2022. I just want to make sure I am putting myself in the right situations to continue to grow as a player and grow my career - so that when that time comes around, I am playing good football… But for the rest of the guys, they're all very good players playing at good levels. The competitions is healthy. You want what's best for you but you also want what's best for the program.”
But Parker also has the advantage with the fact that the U.S. team showed promise against France using a five-man backline with three central defenders flanked by two aggressive wingbacks. The use of this formation opens up the door towards more attacking wide play but it also demands more from the central defenders – and might require more than the typical four centerbacks on a 23 player roster.
“For Tim to get his first start, in that kind of environment, is pretty awesome,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “When I heard it was five in the back, I thought it would be helpful for him to deal with some of their attackers and I thought he stood up tall in almost every moment he had on the field, so it was really good to see him perform the way we know he can.”
After seeing its use against France, Parker is indeed bullish on the use of that formation for the national team moving forward and while he is still learning it, he believes it plays to his strengths.
“I think we could benefit from it due to our depth in centerback,” Parker explained. “I haven't played much of it until my move to Red Bull. I am obviously still learning it but it's fun. It's an aggressive formation at times. Some say it's five in the back but really it is just three and you're trying to push those wingbacks as high as you can. In the future, with the way our team is and the way our wingsbacks are, it can really be a vital formation for us going forward.”
While Parker is in a good situation right now and happy playing for the Red Bulls, he is also thinking about his longer-term career at the club level and is open to making a move to Europe. While he has taken important strides in the past few months, he knows that that could make for important decisions in the future.
“I think it would be hard to say that I wouldn't want to play in Europe,” Parker said. “Every player at some point in their career aspires to play there. If the opportunity came about, obviously I would have to measure it and see if the timing of everything was right. But I definitely wouldn't rule out Europe. It's definitely an idea I would find to be a lot of fun and it would be a good challenge.”
The national team won’t reconvene until September when it meets Brazil in a friendly at MetLife Stadium nearby the Red Bulls home where Parker could make his U.S. national team home debut. This fall the U.S. team will be taking on some of the best teams in the world over six friendlies. Brazil, Mexico, England, and Italy have already been announced. Argentina is also rumored to be on the docket in October.
Along with a likely playoff run for the Red Bulls, it has been quite an adjustment for Parker but one he has enjoyed and is looking forward to seeing where it leads.
“The best part is that we all know we're the young generation coming up and we want to make sure we do our part not only playing our role but making sure the fans know we want to be part of it. It's been a lot of fun, to be honest. Everything going on with the national team and the first couple of months of the season with the Red Bulls, it's been a lot of fun.”