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Michael Parkhurst returns to Atlanta United training

Parkhurst missed Atlanta’s playoff win over Philadelphia with a dislocated shoulder.

Oct 19, 2019; Atlanta , GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst (3) kicks the ball up the field against the New England Revolution during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 19, 2019; Atlanta , GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst (3) kicks the ball up the field against the New England Revolution during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

MARIETTA, Ga — Atlanta United center back Michael Parkhurst trained with the first team Monday morning. The captain missed Atlanta’s Eastern Conference semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union last Thursday after sustaining a dislocated shoulder late in the Five Stripes’ MLS Cup playoffs first-round victory against the New England Revolution Oct. 19.

Atlanta manager Frank de Boer said Monday Parkhurst’s availability for Wednesday’s Eastern Conference final versus Toronto FC is still uncertain.

“We have to wait,” de Boer told reporters. “He’s on the field. That’s promising. Still have to do some tests, but he’s looking good.”

Parkhurst suffered the injury during second-half stoppage time of the 1-0 win over New England when he collided with forward Cristian Penilla. Atlanta’s medical team was unable to pop the bone back into socket at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Parkhurst went to a local hospital with the shoulder still dislocated.

“[S]o you can imagine how painful that is,” de Boer said after the New England win. The manager initially told reporters he expected Parkhurst to be out of action for “a couple of weeks.”

Parkhurst, who captained Atlanta to an MLS Cup win last season and finished third in Major League Soccer’s defender of the year voting, appeared to be riding off into the sunset toward the end of the 2019 campaign. He played in just two of Atlanta’s final 13 regular-season games after falling behind Miles Robinson, Leandro González-Pírez, Franco Escobar and Florentin Pogba on the center back depth chart. Last month, Parkhurst announced his plan to retire at the close of this season.

The 35-year-old was unexpectedly forced back into action when Robinson, who finished third in 2019 defender of the year voting, went down with a hamstring injury while on United States men’s national team duty earlier this month. De Boer elected to start Parkhurst over Pogba in the middle of a back-three against New England because of the former’s experience. Parkhurst put in a masterclass performance that included two clearances, one blocked shot and one recovery in Atlanta’s penalty area.

Robinson did not participate in Monday’s training session and will not play against Toronto, according to de Boer. 

With Robinson and Parkhurst both unavailable versus Philadelphia, De Boer paired Pogba and González-Pírez in the middle of a back-four. Escobar started at right back and Mikey Ambrose, making his first senior appearance since July 7, lined up at left back. The Five Stripes earned another clean sheet victory, 2-0.

Atlanta and Toronto meet Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The winner will face either Los Angeles Football Club or the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final Sunday, Nov. 10. Should the Five Stripes advance, they would either play at LAFC or host Seattle. Atlanta lost 2-1 at Seattle July 14 and fell 4-3 at LAFC July 26.

Since that defeat at Banc of California Stadium, the Five Stripes are 12-3-1 across all competitions and have won two trophies.

Updated with comment from Frank de Boer.

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