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From combine to call-up: U.S. national team call caps off whirlwind year for Tim Parker

What a difference a year can make.

At this time last year, Tim Parker was heading into the MLS Player Combine without a whole lot of fanfare. Most pundits predicted him to go in the first round, but there were no guarantees.

He still needed to earn an MLS contract and, in his words, “make a name for himself.”

Mission accomplished.

Parker impressed in the first day of games and continued his strong play throughout the weekend. Initially, only two teams scheduled meetings with Parker.

After that first day, 13 more came calling.

“It was exciting,” Parker told whitecapsfc.com. “I’ve heard a lot of good and bad things about the combine but overall my experience was very exciting. I had a really good first day and that kind of put me into discussions and built my confidence up for the rest of the combine.”

This year’s combine gets underway today – one week ahead of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.

And Parker has some advice for this year’s attendees:

“I think the main thing is that you want to play within your boundaries,” he said. “Don’t do something you’re not used to doing or that’s outside of your game. Obviously there’s a lot of people watching and in some aspects your career is on the line. You want to play within your boundaries and do what you’re good at and then hopefully the coaches pick up on it.”

Also, be prepared for all sorts of different questions, Parker said.

For example, one team asked him about his interest in bulldogs – apparently he had been posting some pictures of them on Twitter.

The first team Parker met with was actually Vancouver. It felt like a “perfect match,” he said.

For both him and the team.

Carl Robinson and his staff had identified the centre back prior to the combine and his performance there – both on the pitch and in their interview – only reaffirmed their existing beliefs.

But they still did their due diligence.

Huddled in a hotel boardroom on the morning of the draft, the ‘Caps brass went through different scenarios. They discussed potentially trading down from 13th overall for allocation money. One team offered them $75,000 for the pick.

“That would be a bad trade in my books,” said one member of the Whitecaps FC brass.

Everyone agreed. They kept coming back to Parker.

He had become a hot commodity by draft day.

For example, it was reported that Orlando City SC were pursuing him with their second pick in the first round. They discussed trading up to ninth overall to take him, but couldn’t come to an agreement with Toronto FC.

For his part, Parker wasn’t even planning on attending the draft.

But then two days before it, he signed a contract with MLS because a number of teams were interested in his services. So he made a last minute trip to Philadelphia with his family.

“I was nervous, but I felt really confident,” Parker said. “I knew I did well in the combine and did enough in the offseason to put myself in a good spot. I remember sitting in the chair hearing the names getting called. Vancouver ended up taking a timeout during their pick. My agent was saying they might not pick you, they might trade the pick away. My first reaction was: ‘What are you talking about?’”

In the end, the ‘Caps selected Parker at 13th overall.

“I remember hugging my mom, dad and brother and I kind of just blacked out after that,” he said. “I was just so filled with excitement and happiness that I don’t remember much after that … but when the scarf ended up going around my neck, my dream kind of came true.”

Now, fast forward a year.

After a rookie campaign in which he started 14 regular season matches, scored two goals in all competitions, and helped Whitecaps FC post the best defensive record in MLS, Parker earned his first call-up to the senior U.S. men’s national team on Wednesday.

"When he gets recognized by Jürgen, that’s got to give him further motivation," Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi said on Wednesday. "If you look at his body of play over the whole of last season, he never let us down. One of the things that came through loud and clear at the draft …. he’s a very, very mature player. And mature individual. Whenever it looked like he had hit the ceiling last year, he just continued to improve. And that’s exciting. If he can continue to do that, we’ve obviously got a very good centre back for the future.”

What a difference a year can make. 

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