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American midfielder Keaton Parks makes first-team debut for Benfica

Texas-born American midfielder Keaton Parks made his first-team debut for Portuguese giant Benfica on Saturday, coming off the bench in a 2-0 Taca de Portugal win against Setubal.

Parks came off the bench and played 21 minutes in is first match with Benfica since joining from Portuguese second-division side Varzim in the summer.

A member of the U.S. Under-20 national team player pool, Parks moved to Portugal from Texas when he turned 19, and spent a year in the Portuguese second division, where he impressed enough to earn a move to Benfica. He has earned regular time with the club’s second team, and recently began training with the first team.


  1. The full national team squad will not meet up again until March so there is plenty of time to see how some the younger guys pan out this season. Please don’t try to argue these kids should be invited in January either, they need to be with their clubs, when their clubs are playing matches. Also, USSF needs to make sure the GC is played as early in the Summer as possible in 2019 to make sure the European based players are available.

    • Most Euro players are not usually released for January camp. We may get a couple that may be in a lower division that their club wouldn’t mind releasing. I think Morales was once allowed to train in our January camp.

  2. Good for Parks, But this does not mean much. The European football landscape is littered with 18-20 year-old Brazilians and Argentinians who did not make it. It used to be worse, they used to bring in 13 year-olds and discard them when they failed to pan out, but FIFA has now banned that practice for children.

    The European teams do not have a magic formula for assessing young talent, they simply have the budget to import lots of players and let time tell them which will actually pan out. The small fraction of young players who actually ever get even a small cameo appearance are the successes, the vast majority simply languish in the lower level leagues. Lichaj, Specter, Williams, Ream, are examples of players who just caught on , but often ended up playing mostly in 2nd or 3rd divisions where the soccer is arguably no better than in MLS. Adu was a much more spectacular fail.

    Perhaps the biggest thing that becomes clear for a US player in Europe is if he has the maturity to handle living away from home without the support of family and friends and with lots of spare time to let mischief find him.

    It is unknowable if say Mike McGee had gone to Europe if he would have done better than he did with NJ and LA or how Eddie Gavin would have fared compared to growing in NJ and Columbus. Bradley went to Europe at a young age, but his greatest improvement came when he was in the US as his immediate positive impact in Holland showed. Bradley’s improvement in Europe was more uneven, with periods of stagnation after Holland, and one stint at Chievo where his particular talents made that team better. His performance in MLS has remained pretty flat since returning from Roma where it was obvious he was not making any great strides. Of course Bradley was over 26 when he returned to MLS, an age that often signals the end of improvement and the beginning of a slow downward spiral.

    • While I agree with your main premise that it is the situation and a player’s ability to adapt to a different situation, your Bradley history is incorrect. Bradley didn’t catch on as a starter and hit his scoring stride until his third year in Holland. He then had 2 1/2 strong seasons at Mochengladbach as a regular starter before a terrible loan to Aston Villa. The good season at Chievo and then a season as a regular starter with Roma before they brought in Strootman who was a hotshot Dutch prospect at the time. They signed him for 17 million, Bradley for 3.75, Strootman was going to get his shot. Over his final 6 1/2 seasons in Europe in the Eredivisie, Bundesliga, and Serie A he was the regular starter for his team in 5 1/2 of those seasons.

      • Let me remind you, that terrible load was pushed by Bradley because he lost his starting role with his German club.

  3. So well,this young,came fron U20usamnt,almost all of them are playing in good teams,schalke 04 Mckensie camerron carter whit sheffield,lca de la torre and tim
    ream whit Fullham,haiji wrigth, and many more,soon Tyler Adams will play whit great
    team,,and this boy Park whit the giant of portugal Benfica,and soon will be in Usamnt
    the senior,and Jonathan Gonzalez who prefered USA whit his heart over mexican team
    but,denis to close the mexican director,it make more hangry at the american ,that push
    an push

    • Parks is a special case. he wasn’t part of most youth programs until he was called for the U20 final camp, this is the camp for players that didn’t get selected for the U-20 WC. At camp, he was miscast as a defender. Ramos didn’t think much of him.

  4. We need to stop this knee jerk reaction of coming up with a new usmnt starting 11 every time an American player starts training with a senior team or gets a few minutes of playing time. It’s embarrassing that we are so desperate that we do this every single time.

    And it’s usually done in this manner of “you put him here and play them there, that’s our lineup of the future. It’s really not complicated!” Yeah JK and Bruce and maybe Tab have missed some kids and miscast them, but I think we can all agree that it’s a little bit more complicated than that. And don’t forget that Benfica is the same team that thought pretty highly of Freddy Adu, so even established European teams sometimes misjudge players…

    • What needs to stop is the belief that there are players who cannot be displaced by young players.

      Jonathan Gonzales, McKennie, Pulisic…these are the top performers in the US pool, regardless of age. Only one of them saw minutes in qualifying and Id argue that even that was later than it should have been.

      If a guy is getting minutes at Benfica, he needs to get minutes for the US. The same pressure to perform that exists in Europe (or Mexico for that matter) just does not exist in MLS.

      • Perspective continues to escape some fans, but I get it, failing to qualify still hurts but we can’t let that cloud logical actions. This kid Peaks, just played 21 minutes in a cup game and now he should be in the senior team?? This idea that Arena should have called in McKennie and Williams is absurd when you come to learn that both were injured the time of the call ups. What Sarachan put out on the field in Portugal is how you infuse youth into the set up with veterans, with the idea of slowly easing the older players who can no longer help push the program forward out the door. Fielding teams with a bunch of teenagers is not serving the program nor the younger players well, it has to be done incrementally.

      • It could be said that had as much to do with the US missing the World Cup as any other factor.

        The incessant apologizing and pro-MLS propaganda that pours out of MLS is ridiculous.

        For example, Jordan Morris’ move to MLS over Bremen was one that stalked his growth, not one that sewed up his standing as a USMNT regular.

    • I think too many are thinking because we mention where a new player should play now in our national team is what it will be for the next WC in 4 years. Too many things can and will happen but to say a new kid hasn’t done anything because he doesn’t have the resume of a established player is also flawed. Let me turn that logic around, how many current established player played in a top 4 league team? not many, so for these kids doing it at this age shows us that they are for real. Keaton was brushed aside by just about all of USSF organizations, he didn’t even go beyond a local odp select team. He actually played H.S. soccer to continue to play. He did get an offer to play college ball but turned it down because he knew he was better than that, went to Portugal, excel in a bad team that wanted to sell him to another bad team, he took his team to arbitration and won and was picked up by Benfica to play in their B team, he started halfway during the season because of his legal issue of his previous club, he was out of action for 8 months, within 4 months of playing in the B team he gets called to play for their senior team. And he just got his first 21 minutes at the senior club level and he did not play shy, or was overwhelmed but played like he knows how to play and excelled, even making the starting one touch pass to an open man that led to the second score. Give the kid credit because he does deserves it.

    • While many may have a knee jerk reaction…I think that there are many more who are just trying to project what the team could potentially look like in the not so distant future. I don’t think many are truly suggesting that we ban all veterans. Some veterans who still have something to add to the team should be involved over the course of the next 18 months: Guzan, Brooks, Cameron, Besler, Yedlin, Lichaj, Villafana, Williams, Zardes, Jozy, & Wood. These are the players who can help instruct & integrate the young players the fans are wanting to see called up. However there are other veterans that were already falling out of favor or weren’t playing well during the Hex should not be seen from again: Howard Ream, O. Gonzalez, Zusi, Bedoya, Fabian, Wondo, Dempsey, Bradley, etc….

      Within 18 months the Veterans should only be those who’ll have potential to contribute come 2022….Wood, Jozy, Brooks, Yedlin & Pulisic.
      The balance of the team will be made up of the players people are arguing to be included. Some of these guys are the “Knee Jerk” reactions you’re referencing; players like Parks who are just breaking into their clubs; but in 18 months they’ll hopefully all be regular contributors to their clubs.

  5. Is this going to be another one that the US coaches threw out? Those good old boys cover their tracks pretty well. Don’t they Arena?

    • Keaton does not appear to be a defensive player. He appears to be a creative player for the US. Put him central underneath Pulisic with McKennie roving and Jonathan Gonzalez cleaning up and connecting behind them. Brooks and Miazga central. Wood up top. Theres your spine. Yedlin on the right, Acosta on the left. Gooch out wide. Steffen in the net.

      Theres the team.

      Its time to wave goodbye to Bradley, Dempsey, Howard, etc. and bring the young guys in. Altidore needs to earn a chance.

      Players who are in form need to play. No more automatic lineups. Morris needs to earn minutes too. Its time to make these guys earn it with performance like Jonathan Gonzalez, Pulisic, McKennie, etc are doing.

      MLS needs to sit down and shut up.

      • I think Adams may be the better fullback for the LB position. He has it all, physically and mentally, he just needs the reps.

      • you say that altidore needs to earn his chance, but then pencil in wood up top, who’s scored like once in the past year and is now riding the bench? gooch is getting garbage minutes for a team that’s likely to be in the 3rd tier next year, so he’s now our wide player? and parks has now played a grand total of 21 minutes in a cup game, so he’s part of the spine of the team? (not to take away from parks: it’s really exciting that he’s getting minutes on a good team.)

        i agree that we need to move on from the old guard, but it needs to be done wisely. you talk about “no more automatic lineups”, but it seems like you’re just looking at who’s got minutes in europe and saying that’s good enough.

      • Fun lineup. The only thing I differ on is Wood. He is not now and probably will never be the CF we need. He is not playing regularly for good reason. Sargent has the potential to be like Kane and it is so great that he is not going into the EPL, which is mostly not a development league but a results and survival league , which is not what our young players need I think.

    • I think his comment is more a projection lineup if things continue to go the way is going. I understand your point but allowing a less talented player to start simply because he was the only one getting playing time before and thus have a better resume than a new player is also flawed logic. And to the Woods example. Yes, he hardly scores for club, his club is bad to be blunt but when he plays for our national team, he outperforms (scores) Jozy when it matters, and Jozy scores regularly at his club.

      • @LouisZ

        that still doesn’t make much sense. if things continue the way they’re going, wood will continue his downward trend, gooch will be getting minutes for a 3rd-tier team next year, and parks will be getting more minutes in portugal cup ties—promising, but not all that impressive on its own, and certainly not something you’d think to build your national team around.

        and for the jozy/bobby comparison: jozy’s scoring rate (.32) for the usmnt is actually higher than bobby’s (.28); even for just this year, jozy’s got 4 goals in 11 games (.36), bobby’s only got 2 in 7 (.29). so that argument doesn’t make sense either.

        my point isn’t to say jozy should stay (or that bobby/gooch/parks should go, obviously); it’s simply that the solution isn’t nearly as simple as j thomas is making it out to be, and that if they really want to get away from “automatic” callups, maybe don’t just run down a list of whoever shows up on a non-mls roster at any given point?

      • I don’t remember a time where we’ve had so many teenagers getting first team minutes with good teams in good leagues. You don’t understand the concept of a trend very well. A trend had at least two days points. In the case of Gooch the trend doesn’t look great but in the cases of Parks and a lot of these other guys the trend is pretty good. Obviously trends can change but for me the excitement lies in the number of potentially good players coming up.

    • @Nate Dollars — You are just going by paper stats. Not actual CURRENT performance for the national team, Bobby has scored against tougher opponents during these qualifiers, Jozy hasn’t. To go back to memorable Jozy moments where it counted, folks go back to 2009 confederations. Jozy has a lot of goals because he always plays. Boby is faster, has more moves and can score on his own, Jozy requires service to be effective. I’ll take Boby any day of the week before I take Jozy who at times looks disinterested.

      • And what about assists? Who does better hold up play? Who combines better with Pulisic? wood is not versatile and not very good. You just don’t like Jozy and are selecting stats to support your case while ignoring obvious ones that matter more. Neither of them are very good but Altidore is better and Wood is now getting garbage minutes and really struggling for confidence.

    • @ComradeJones — By you mentioning Jozy’s assist stats only aren’t you doing the same? Jozy has decent assist stats because he is playing all the time. For being the top scorer for our national team he is not the prolific scorer in this club team, those honors go to a little Italian forward that hardly gets a call from his national team. Think about that.

  6. This kid has been playing the same way for the past year, yet, neither Arena or Ramos saw what Benfica saw. In fact, Ramos tried him as a CB in the last U-20 camp.

    • To be fair to Ramos….the kid is 6’3″ or 6’4″ and there were a number of options for the U-20s at CM (McKennie, Adams, De La Torre, etc…. That’s not to say that the kid shouldn’t have been given a shot at his primary position, but I don’t fault Ramos for also considering him as an option at CB.

      • I understand you but the camp was AFTER the U-20 world cup roster was submitted, so having already established CM didn’t matter, that camp was to find out the level of the players that didn’t make the cut. Ramos was more concerned about others than what Parks could give him at his natural position and that is the fault of the myopic coaching staff.

    • Classic case of a late bloomer. To be fair to US Soccer, it should be noted that Parks didn’t even play for the FC Dallas Academy (like mckennie, acosta, and others). The U20 world cup result was good, but it should be kept in perspective. Nations don’t always have their best U20 players available (Ramos was denied McKennie by his club). Back in 2003, Clint never saw the field in the 2003 U20 World Cup.

      That all said, congrats to Parks. I hope he gets more minutes with the senior team. It’s great to see him developing with Benfica instead of some college team.

  7. He is also the third cousin twice removed of Ji Sung Park (his family added the “s” after a bad family feud). The resemblance is uncanny.


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