Keaton Parks targeting USMNT recall & more trophies with NYCFC
After suffering heartbreak and disruption over the last couple of years, Keaton Parks is ready to get down to business in 2023.
The 25-year-old midfielder has been a key component for NYCFC since joining from Portuguese giants Benfica in 2019. However, Parks was forced to miss the club's run to MLS Cup in 2021 after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his leg.
Just last year, the same issue arose again, restricting Parks to just 18 regular-season appearances, though he did return in time for the Cityzens' MLS Cup Playoffs campaign, helping his side reach the Eastern Conference Final.
Now fully healthy once again, Parks is looking to exorcise the ghost of 2021 by playing a bigger role in a title-winning season for NYCFC, while also making a return to the USMNT picture for the first time since 2018.
“I think we can achieve a lot,” Parks said in an interview with NYCFC's official website. “We have a lot of talent, a lot of commitment, and a lot of guys who are passionate about winning. We’re going to fight and we’re going to give the team and the club everything we can.
“I haven’t thought too much about that [my own hopes] so much recently, just because of my injuries. Everything was short-term: just getting back on the field and producing again has been my main focus, but I would love to win multiple titles with this club, as well as hopefully getting some call-ups for the [US] National Team.
“But that’s all background noise for me… I’m just trying to focus on my time here, right now in the present – getting healthy and playing good soccer again.”
Though missing out on the biggest moment in NYCFC history was undoubtedly tough, the experience hardened Parks and offered him new perspectives and motivations to keep improving himself in the future.
“I go into each year wanting to have the best year of my career, and I’m feeling really good right now,” he said. “It’s a new motivation for me, having missed so much time recently, and hopefully I can put that into my work on the field, and really have the season of my career so far.
“I keep telling my wife and my friends that too – that it's like I have a whole new motivation on the field. I know how easily it can be taken away from you – short-term or long-term – so I definitely have a new appreciation for health, and new motivation for each time I’m on the field.
“I'm going to keep approaching any little setback with that same attitude and hopefully it will pass quicker each time.
“I think it’s going well so far but it is a thing you have to grow: to learn to be confident again. I feel like I'm a pretty confident guy and a confident player but even subconsciously, it's something that you really have to get used to – you have knock off all the rust and try to get back to your old ways, but I'm working on it.
“I had to learn to be patient, especially after my second injury, because the first one was all new to me – it was my first big injury, my first big setback – so I was more okay with it, I was positive about it.”