Keaton Parks

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Benfica loanee Parks readies for playoffs with NYCFC

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Keaton Parks plays the kind of hard-to-quantify midfield role that sends both stat nerds and eye test takers to a very good place.

Barely 22, the New York City FC midfielder doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. Since arriving on loan from Benfica, the American shuttler (of sorts) ranks near the top of the club rankings in pass percentage and aerials won while chipping in tackles and successful dribbles.

[ MORE: PST talks public pitches, youth development with NYCFC director Reyna ]

He’s averaging near one key pass per game but has just a goal and an assist, due more to his responsibility in Dome Torrent’s system than a particular skill set (He has eight goals and seven assists across two-plus seasons between Varzim and Benfica B).

“In the midfield it really helps to play both sides of the ball,” Parks told ProSoccerTalk. “I take pride in doing that, and I love to make a tackle as much as getting in the attack and assisting or scoring goals. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not scoring or making all of the assists. I like to be the solid player who keeps the balance on the team.”

(Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Parks has been an enigma to American soccer fans for some time in that he’s been in a celebrated club in Benfica but playing in a developmental role that’s near impossible to track without single-minded dedication to Portuguese football (Dramatic? Sure, but you try to catch every Liga Pro game).

But in moving to New York City FC to play under Dome Torrent, he’s had an easier transition than most due to his upbringing with Benfica, which annually ranks amongst the top possession teams in Portugal. Torrent, of course, left his last managerial gig at Girona in Spain to spent a decade-plus on Pep Guardiola‘s staff at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

“Dome likes to play a possession style, a confident style,” Parks said. “I still have to fight for my spot on the team but the playing style I was used to right away.

“You can see the experience Dome has, and he mirrors a little bit of what Pep does, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from him and see the experiences of the players he’s been able to coach in his career.”

NYCFC begins its playoff run on Wednesday against Toronto FC at Citi Field in Queens, and Parks says he’s feeling better after missing three matches with injury.

And while he’s focused on the playoffs — “We want to win the Cup and be at the top” — there is a question of what’s next for him, still on the books at a perennial UEFA Champions League club but very important with a CONCACAF Champions League club.

[ MORE: MLS Playoffs preview/predictions ]

“I’m just going to be looking forward to whatever club I’m at next, whether here or back at Benfica or wherever I am and also with the U-23s going into Tokyo next summer.”

He’ll, in theory, be an imperative part to Jason Kreis, ironically a former NYCFC man himself, and the Yanks bid for a first Olympic run in three cycles. The team should be powerful, and Parks is happy.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “We have so much talent on the team with guys playing first division all over the world. I believe we can make a run all the way to these Olympics.”
NYCFC and Toronto FC kick off 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Citi Field.

USMNT youngster joins NYCFC on loan from Benfica

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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. national player Keaton Parks has been acquired by New York City FC on loan from the Portuguese club Benfica for the 2019 season.

The 21-year-old Texan is a versatile central midfielder. He joined Varzim of Portugal in 2015 when he turned 18 and then signed with Benfica in 2017.

He made his national team debut in May, entering in the 62nd minute of a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Philadelphia.

New York sporting director Claudio Reyna said Saturday that Parks “comes to us highly motivated” and can “make a strong impact” in midfield.

Player ratings: USMNT 3-0 Bolivia

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It’s worth noting that the young United States men’s national team that tangled with Bolivia on Monday in Pennsylvania was also facing an untested Bolivia squad which doesn’t do a ton at full strength.

[ WATCH: Zimmerman scores opener | 3 things ]

But there’s still much to be excited about, relatively speaking, as the USMNT kicked off a trio of friendlies with a win on Monday.

Six players earned their first United States caps. They are tagged with asterisks*.

Starting XI

Alex Bono* — 6 — No fault in his rating. Had nothing to do. At times had to feel like he was back at Empire United, playing a tournament game against also-rans.

Eric Lichaj (Off 74′) — 7 — Didn’t have to do much, but positionally sound as expected for the Nottingham Forest man.

Walker Zimmerman —  8 — A great goal to cap a solid if non-demanding 90.

Erik Palmer-Brown* — 7 — Barely more to do than his goalkeeper.

Antonee Robinson* — 9 — I’m not even sure what to do with an American left back handling his business like a possible 10-year answer. WHAT DO I DO, AMERICA?

Weston McKennie — 7 — He’s nearly as important a piece to the USMNT set-up as Pulisic. Today wasn’t a day to expect him to show what he’s good at — breaking up danger and quickly setting the stage for possession and/or attack.

Tim Weah (Off 61′) — 8 —Almost as dangerous as Sargent, the PSG youngster rebounded from an early leg injury to bag a goal in his second USMNT appearance.

Joe Corona (Off 61′) — 7 — Needed to be a steady veteran presence and was, wisely choosing when to adventure and when to stay safe.

Christian Pulisic (Off 89′) — 6 — By no means bad, but in dire need of a deserved offseason. Remains the future of the United States men’s national team.

Rubio Rubin (Off 74′) — 6 — Just fine. Active and adequate, but we can’t give out all 7s and better.

Josh Sargent* (Off 61′) — 8 — Became the fourth-youngest goal scorer in USMNT history when he capitalized on a keeper error, and was largely a threat for the duration of his debut.

Subs

Andriya Novakovich (On 61′) — 7 — The Telstar man again looked comfortable as he looks to keep his USMNT train on the right high-speed tracks.

Julian Green (On 61′) — 7 — Perfectly fine, but the game was largely over when he entered the fray. Great dribble and through ball to set up Villafana for a “shoulda” assist.

Keaton Parks* (On 61′) — 7 — The best performance of any sub, with apologies to Novakovich. Shocking that a 20-year-old midfielder of his skill and stature eluded the entire national team set-up until this stage of his career.

Matthew Olosunde* (On 74′) — N/A — The Manchester United prospect from the Mooch Soccer project makes his debut.

Lynden Gooch (On 74′) — N/A — Probably pleased to take a step up from the squad quality at Sunderland, but should’ve had a goal in stoppage time.

Jorge Villafana (On 89′) — N/A — Sueno gets a cameo for cap No. 17, and makes a pinpoint cross Gooch should’ve finished in stoppage time.

Report: American Keaton Parks to take part in Benfica preseason training

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A bigger role likely awaits Keaton Parks next season at Benfica.

Portuguese publication Record reports that Parks has been invited to take part in preseason training with the first team in July and August. The 20-year-old American joined the Portuguese giant in 2017 from fellow Portuguese side Varzim and has impressed for Benfica B, including scoring a pair of goals in a match on Wednesday.

[READ: Parks signs new deal at Benfica]

Parks has made three appearances for the first team off the bench, including seven minutes in Benfica’s 2-0 win over Desportivo Aves last Saturday.

The Texas native was part of a U.S. Under-20 National Team training camp in London in April 2017 but has yet to make his debut in the U.S. shirt. It’s surely only a matter of time.

US youngster signs new deal at Benfica

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Texas native Keaton Parks has signed a new deal with reigning Portuguese champions Benfica.

[ MORE: Mourinho starts mind games ]

The 20-year-old midfielder arrived in the Portuguese capital last summer and made his debut for the first team in the Portuguese Cup in November.

He has now signed a new one-year contract extension after an impressive start to life at Benfica. Also, it’s pretty badass that he has his first name on the back of his shirt. Just saying.

Parks’ career path saw him move from Plano, Texas to Portuguese LigaPro (second tier) side Varzim in 2015 after he was scouted by Varzim after playing against them for NPSL side Liverpool Warriors, his club side in Texas.

At Varzim he made his way into their first team as a teenager in 2016-17 and that led to him joining Benfica in the summer to play for their reserve team in LigaPro.

Parks told Benfica’s website that he has been delighted with his start at the Estadio da Luz.

“I feel very good, I’m very excited to start a new stage at Benfica, to continue my journey here and to have my opportunity with the main team and the B team as I move forward,” Parks said. “As a new team, I did not have high expectations, I did not know what to expect, but it has been a fantastic experience.  Playing with the reserve team and to have my chance with the main team as well: it’s been fantastic.

“Training with them every day, playing at the weekend, it has been good. The team is working well this year. We are getting to know each other, to learn how one another plays, to create chemistry in the team. It’s been a good experience. The coach helps me a lot, all the coaches help me in the B team. My colleagues talk to me a lot, they help me and I think I’ve been developing a lot since I arrived. ”

Below is a look at Parks doing his stuff in midfield for Benfica’s reserve team, scoring an equalizer from outside the box against their fierce rivals Sporting Lisbon.

Holding down a starting spot for Benfica’s reserve squad and being part of their first team is no mean feat and with the U.S. U-20 side calling up Parks for a training camp in London earlier this year, he will surely get his chance very soon for the U.S. youth national teams.

Benfica’s reputation as a breeding ground for some of the top young talent in world soccer (Angel di Maria, David Luiz and Ederson to name a few) means that Parks will likely get plenty more chances with the first team as he develops.

His aim is to keep pushing hard for a first team spot with the Portuguese giants.

“Continue in Benfica, work hard and, if everything goes well, have more opportunities in the main team, more minutes in the games and prove my quality,” Parks added.

Remember the name: Keaton Parks.