Every Monday for eternity, The Post will publish a soccer package in the Sports print edition. Online, I will re-purpose it for the Insider on Monday afternoon. Some items are geared toward casual sports fans who read the print edition and do not necessarily follow the blog. Some material has appeared on the blog previously. Last week’s prime topic was Atletico Madrid shaking up La Liga. Today’s work:
Five months ago, Michael Parkhurst and Maurice Edu stood almost no chance of making the U.S. World Cup roster. Both were employed by European clubs after launching careers in MLS and, despite remaining in high regard back home, they had faded from Juergen Klinsmann’s radar.
The issue was a lack of playing time, Parkhurst at Augsburg in the German Bundesliga and Edu with England’s Stoke City in the Premier League. Without minutes, they were without much hope of joining the U.S. squad.
In order to revive their careers and, by extension, their World Cup outlook, Parkhurst and Edu returned to MLS over the winter. As key figures on new teams, both are very much in the mix to receive a boarding pass to Brazil.
Parkhurst, a 30-year-old defender, has played every minute for the Columbus Crew, the Eastern Conference co-leader. Edu, a 28-year-old midfielder, has yet to miss a minute with the Philadelphia Union.
Parkhurst played for New England in 2005-08 and was a regular with Danish club Nordsjaelland for four seasons before taking a major step up to the Bundesliga. However, he made two league appearances in 2012-13 and none through the first half of this season before being allowed to leave on a free transfer.
Edu, a former University of Maryland star who appeared in three matches at the 2010 World Cup, failed to make an impression at Stoke after moving from Glasgow Rangers in 2012. He went on loan to Turkish club Bursaspor for a few months but returned to the shadows in England. In January, Stoke loaned him to Philadelphia.
Both players took pay cuts in leaving elite leagues: Edu now earns $650,000, Parkhurst $300,000.
As Klinsmann narrows his roster, Edu is making a bid to join Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman in the defensive midfield corps. Parkhurst’s versatility – he’s a center back in MLS and an outside back on the international level – has bolstered his prospects.
Bradley also left Europe over the winter, moving to Toronto FC from Roma in Italy’s Serie A. He could have stayed overseas, if not in Italy then elsewhere, but was lured by a monster contract ($6.5 million) and the chance to return closer to home with his family after eight years in Europe.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey was in a similar situation last summer, falling out of favor with Tottenham in England before signing with Seattle to become MLS’s highest-paid player ($6.7 million). Ahead of his third World Cup, he is rounding into form with five goals and two assists in the past three matches.
Klinsmann’s final roster is likely to include more MLS players than European-based candidates.
Days until World Cup: 52
“We have our Super Bowl, we have our World Series, we have the NBA Finals, we have March Madness, but my Lord, it is nothing quite like the World Cup”
– Vice President Biden at ceremony welcoming the World Cup trophy to Washington last week
*Brazilian superstar Neymar was ruled out for four weeks with a foot injury, suffered in Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final Wednesday. On that timetable, he would return for the La Liga finale against Atletico Madrid, then report to Brazilian training camp 3 ½ weeks ahead of the World Cup opener against Croatia in Sao Paulo.
*It’s been a miserable Premier League campaign for Jozy Altidore and Sunderland, but on Saturday, the last-place Black Cats disrupted the title race by winning at second-place Chelsea, 2-1. In his first league appearance in 3+ weeks, Altidore drew a controversial penalty, leading to the tiebreaking goal in the 82nd minute. Sunderland has won just seven of 34 matches but beaten three top-five teams (Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton) and tied Man City.
*U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, 35, signed a two-year contract extension with Everton through 2017-18. He joined the Toffees from Manchester United in 2006. With a 2-0 victory over Man U on Sunday, he has posted 14 shutouts and conceded just 31 goals in 34 league matches for a club on pace for its first continental cup berth since 2009-10.
*Ticket sales have surpassed 23,000 for the June 7 doubleheader at FedEx Field, featuring Spain against El Salvador followed by D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew. Spain will arrive in Washington five days early and train daily at an undisclosed university. Organizers are anticipating 150 Spanish media members to track the reigning world champions.