On Wednesday the U.S. WNT began its quest to win yet another Olympic Championship defeating New Zealand 2-0 as they set out to make history as the first team to win Olympic Gold on the back of winning the Women’s World Cup.
Then on Thursday the men’s Olympic competition kicked off. Absent from this Gold Rush once again is the U.S. Men’s National Team who failed for the second consecutive time to qualify for the Olympiad.
When the team fell short in 2011 Jurgen Klinsmann labeled the group that missed out on the London Games as a “lost generation.” Players like Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Mix Diskerud, and Terrence Boyd were some of the those labeled as “lost” by the man who ultimately controls the international fates of those very players.
Last Sunday outside of Dallas two of the crop of Americans who fell short of qualifying for Rio 2016, FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta and Vancouver Whitecaps defender Tim Parker, faced off at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas with the home team prevailing by a 2-0 score.
Afterward, GotSoccer had the opportunity to speak one on one to the Whitecaps man in a quiet visitors locker room about that Olympic disappointment and about his development in his second year as a professional.
The Olympic soccer tournament was just a few days off when we spoke and with Parker back at the same Toyota Stadium where the U.S. was eliminated by Colombia in March, GotSoccer wondered if the big event was on Parker’s mind?
“Yeah, for sure,” 6’2″ center back admitted. “Obviously back in Dallas is kind of where it came to an end for us,” Parker remembered, pausing to gather his thoughts before continuing. “It is a big disappointment,” he said after a moment, “just because that would have been a great tournament for us.”
Asked at Sunday’s postgame press conference by GotSoccer to describe Parker’s progress Carl Robinson, Parker’s club coach with Vancouver, had plenty of praise for the flame-haired 23-year-old but there was caution too from the Welshman.
“Rookie players in their first year, there’s no expectation on them,” Robinson began. “So, they tend to play really well and everyone talks really well about them.” In Robinson’s telling it is in the second year is when a player must prove his mettle.
And how does the coach think Parker’s sophomore season has gone? “Timmy has been a regular in my team this year,” Robinson said, “and he’s done a lot of really, really good things.”
“He’s also made a lot of mistakes, mistakes,” Robinson said, “that he is going to learn from, that will do him a world of good going forward.”
Parker and his U23 teammates won’t be making those mistakes with the world watching in Brazil. “It would have been a great experience for all of us young guys,” Parker said on Sunday, “but you know I think it’s one of those things that it wasn’t meant to be and obviously we have to learn from that and it is something we have to overcome as a group and hope and wait for our turn to come with the first team.”
“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to compete at the international level, “ Parker admits, even if he laughed off the idea of being part of a “lost generation.”
“Like he (Klinsmann) said, it is kind of a loss for us but I think, looking at who we have in our generation, I think you’re talking about a lot of guys that are playing a lot of professional games.”
“I think,” Parker reasoned, “that for us, that generation of guys that didn’t get to go to the Olympics, that we’re still pushing to get first team games in a professional environment.”
Parker has done that since coming out of St John’s University in New York as the 13th overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, playing 15 games for Vancouver as a rookie before cementing a full-time gig alongside Kendall Waston in the center of the Whitecaps defense as a second-year man.
No longer a rookie Parker agrees with Robinson that expectations are higher on him this season. “Yeah, I think so. Last year was kind of like my welcome year,” the Long Island, New York native said.
“I wasn’t held to as high a standard last year but I think it’s good for me to develop a standard and I want things to be demanded of me.” “Knowing that when I mess up there are consequences,” is how Parker put it to GotSoccer.
As a part of the prospective U.S. Olympic team Parker and his teammates learned some harsh lessons, for Parker to avoid the “lost” tag he will need to continue with his education in Major League Soccer.