Of the 23 players on the U-23 MNT roster taking part in the Olympic Qualifying Playoff, no one has had as long a wait between wearing the USA crest than defender Tim Parker. Now 23, Parker last suited up for the U.S. at the Under-18 level in 2011 in a tournament in Portugal.
After a solid rookie season in 2015 with the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Hicksville, New York, native was called in to the Men’s National Team’s annual January Camp earlier this year.
“Going into January Camp and just being involved, meeting some of the guys that are here and the coaching staff, I wanted to show them that I was capable of playing with this team, and obviously hoping to have a future with the Men’s National Team as well,” Parker said from the U-23 MNT camp this week.
Parker didn’t appear in either of the MNT’s wins against Iceland or Canada to start the year, but the camp allowed the centerback to showcase himself to the coaching staff and earn a call up to the U-23 team that will be taking on Colombia for a spot at the Olympics in Rio.
“Obviously getting these opportunities, it was a long working process for me,” Parker said. “I put in a lot of work over the last couple of years hoping to get these call ups. And now that they’re coming it’s great, but at the same time I want to make sure that I become consistent enough to be regularly involved.”
He has started and gone the distance in Vancouver’s first three matches of the young MLS season. And while he’s the least experienced on the international level of the U-23 group, Parker aims to be a leader of the bunch.
“I want to play the role that I’m comfortable playing,” he said. “That’s being vocal, being a leader in the back, communicating and doing my job to the best of my ability, which is defending and keeping the ball out of the back of the net.”
Despite his layoff from the National Team, he has obtained vital experience in international competition, having played for the Whitecaps in Honduras last year in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“Obviously going to Colombia is a different story because you’re playing for something much larger,” he said. “Qualifying for the Olympics would be great for U.S. Soccer and for the players it would be very special.”
The U-23 MNT will face Colombia on Friday in Barranquilla in the first leg (5 p.m. ET - FS1, Univision Deportes Network), and will play the second leg on March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (8:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2) [TICKETS]