Atlanta United turned heads with its flashy multi-million dollar acquisition of Miguel Almiron to spearhead its attack, and now it appears the MLS expansion team has secured the services of a leader for its defense as well.
Sources have confirmed to Goal USA that Atlanta United has completed a trade with the Columbus Crew to acquire veteran central defender Michael Parkhurst in exchange for allocation money.
One of the best passing defenders in MLS, Parkhurst should be a good fit in the possession-oriented system Atlanta United coach Gerardo Martino is expected to employ. The 32-year-old defender is a year removed from helping captain the Crew to the 2015 MLS Cup final, his fourth trip to the MLS Cup final in seven MLS seasons.
Parkhurst started all 34 matches for the Crew in 2016, reaching a career high for matches played (34) and minutes played (3036). The 2016 season was Parkhurst's seventh in MLS, leaving him one season short of qualifying for free agency this winter. He would have been eligible for free agency next year, but will now join an Atlanta United team shaping up to be a strong first-year squad.
The 2007 MLS defender of the year with the New England Revolution, Parkhurst spent four seasons with the Revs before a move to Europe. He spent five seasons with Danish club Nordsjaelland, winning a league title and a pair of Danish Cup titles before securing a move to German Bundesliga side Augsburg, where he spent seasons before returning to MLS with the Crew.
Atlanta United has been aggressive in building its squad ahead of the 2017 season. Along with Almiron and U.S. youth national team forward Brandon Vasquez, Atlanta United has also signed Trinidad and Tobago striker Kenwyn Jones and Argentinian striker Hector Villalba, as well as promising homegrown prospects Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin.
Atlanta United is also closing in on some potential free-agent signings from within MLS, and is finalizing a trade for Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.