VANCOUVER, BC – Tim Parker was one of eight players who made their professional debut in Whitecaps FC 2’s inaugural United Soccer League match back on March 29.
And you could tell.
Parker struggled – as did the rest of the team.
The result was a disappointing 4-0 loss to Sounders FC 2.
Humble but proud: One on one with Tim Parker
“I come from college where I was the experienced guy and thought that I knew a lot," Parker told whitecapsfc.com.
“But when you step up to this level, everything gets quicker, everything is faster. Obviously, you question yourself after a game like that. But at the same time, you don’t want to dwell on it too much to the point where it could put you down.”
Sounds like something a seasoned veteran would say.
As of late, he’s been playing like one, too.
The rookie centre back has appeared in five MLS matches so far this season – and he’s barely put a foot wrong. Most recently, Parker impressed in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Not only did he look the part defensively, Parker provided an attacking threat in the air and looked comfortable on the ball – his passing accuracy was the best among the team’s starters. And the youngster is likely to feature again this weekend with Kendall Waston away on international duty.
“He’s been excellent,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson, who often refers to the rookie as an old head on young shoulders. “We said when we drafted Timmy back in January that he could go on to have a big, big career. This is the first step for him.”
Robinson has been high on Parker from the very beginning.
The Hicksville, New York native enjoyed a successful collegiate career with the St. John’s University Red Storm, starting 79 of the team’s 80 matches and anchoring a back line that posted 30 clean sheets during that period.
Equally impressive, he didn’t miss one practice during his four years at the university.
“He never came in and complained about anything,” Red Storm head coach Dave Masur told whitecapsfc.com in January. “Tim always led by example and wanted to really compete and prove himself on a daily basis even though he was clearly our best player.”
Parker didn’t get too much fanfare heading into the draft, but he was still a hot commodity.
Case in point: it was reported after the draft that Orlando City SC were pursuing the 22-year-old American, but Whitecaps FC wouldn’t budge.
Now, it’s easy to see why.
It’s been a smooth transition for Parker since that first game, but he’s the first to admit that he’s had some help along the way. Notably, Pa-Modou Kah has been a huge mentor.
“He’s really taken me under his wing,” Parker said.
He’s also become very close with fellow American defenders Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey, who like Parker went to college before getting drafted into MLS.
The three of them, and their spouses, often hang out together on their own time. They recently went out for brunch, they’ve gotten together for a few dinners, and Parker and his girlfriend showed Harvey and Beitashour around when they were back in New York.
“I think from the very beginning, even the moment we drafted him, we had a little banter on Twitter about fantasy football,” Harvey told whitecapsfc.com. “I said he’s going to be a great addition to that league, as well as our back line. And I think you’ve seen he’s got poise well beyond his years. His transition into MLS has been one of the best I’ve seen. He’s got a great head on his shoulders and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.”
Suffice to say, Parker is fitting in pretty well. And that’s not something he necessarily expected to happen right away.
“When you’re a freshman in college, sometimes you have to deal with a lot of nonsense,” Parker admitted. “So I expected some of that to be happening here but to be honest from day one everyone has been really welcoming. No one’s said, ‘You’re a rookie, do this, do that.’
Parker and Richey sing "Thinking Out Loud" (with rookie night footage)
He did, however, have to sing an Ed Sheeran song with Spencer Richey back in preseason.
But that was light-hearted and fun.
“It’s more of a family mentality,” Parker continued. “People joke around and ask, ‘Are you guys lying about how close the team is?’ But there are no lies here. Everyone really cares for each other and wants everyone to do well.”
He’s not kidding.
Just ask Kah. The veteran centre back said he wants to help Parker become a starter on the first team – even though he’s technically competing with him for a roster spot.
“I love Tim to death,” Kah told whitecapsfc.com. “He’s a willing learner, he wants to improve every day, he has a great mentality. Every time he comes, it’s just work work. For me, he has great potential to make it to the U.S. national team. But first, I want to make sure that he makes it in the first team and becomes a regular starter. From there, the sky is the limit.”
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