CARSON, Calif. – Michael Parkhurst's honeymoon has featured a rainy field instead of a sunny beach, twice-daily workouts instead of rest and relaxation and the company of 22 sweaty men instead of his new bride, Sam.
The New England Revolution defender got hitched during the Major League Soccer postseason, but he had to forgo the traditional post-marital getaway after being called into Bob Bradley's U.S. national team training camp.
"This is my honeymoon, right here – minus the wife," said Parkhurst, as gloomy clouds descended upon the training fields at the Home Depot Center. "There was no time to fit a proper one in. We will have to wait until the next offseason."
Parkhurst's wedding capped off a big year which saw the 23-year-old continue his development into the league's most accomplished defender and his Revs reach the MLS Cup final, where they lost 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo.
Despite the frustration of losing in the final for a third consecutive year, Parkhurst took satisfaction from the most consistent season of his career and remains fully committed to the New England cause.
Several European clubs, including Fulham of the English Premier League, have taken notice of Parkhurst's performances, yet there is a valid reason behind his wish to remain in MLS for the time being.
Revolution coach Steve Nicol and Parkhurst have a close bond, and the Wake Forest graduate credits the former Liverpool defender with much of his improvement over the last couple of years.
Instead of jumping ship and chasing the pound or Euro, Parkhurst believes the best way to take his game to the next level is by remaining in an environment he knows can help his game. A time may come when the lure of testing himself against the best becomes too strong, but that is probably at least a few years away.
"Right now I see my future in MLS," he said. "There is no reason to see it any other way. I have loved my time in New England and we are looking forward to next year.
"It has been awesome for me at the club. Steve and his assistant Paul Mariner were world-class players in their day so they command that respect.
"With Steve having been a defender himself, he can give me little tips, like when you get in a sticky situation, on what to do with a forward and what position to go to. We spend a lot of time looking at things on tape or working on my game."
The next step Parkhurst wants to take is with the national team, which will begin its qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in June. Competition for places in the U.S. defense is strong, but if he can claim a place during the qualifiers, Parkhurst knows it could result in a trip to South Africa in two years' time.
"I am just trying to get my foot in the door with the national team," he said. "I want to get my playing time in and make the best of it.
"There are only two spots for center-back and it is a position that doesn't get subbed much, so it is tough to get in there. I hope to put my name out there and do well in a couple of games this year."
If Parkhurst can maintain his career momentum in 2008, then he will deserve a vacation by the end of the year. Somewhere sunny perhaps – and this time with his wife in tow.