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Ex-U.S. defender Parkhurst retiring after season

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Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst will retire after the season, ending a 15-year career in which he was one of the top defenders in Major League Soccer.

Parkhurst announced his decision Monday before the team trained for a crucial match at New York City FC. Atlanta trails first-place NYCFC by four points in the Eastern Conference with three games left in the regular season.

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"Well, the time has come for me, unfortunately,'' he said in a video tweeted by the team. "I know I'm one of the lucky ones to be able to say that I've really, really enjoyed what I've been able to do the last 15 years. To kick a soccer ball and get paid for it has been an absolute dream come true.''

The 35-year-old defender was picked as captain after joining Atlanta for its first season in 2017. He helped the expansion team win the MLS Cup last season, as well as the Campeones Cup and the U.S. Open Cup this year.

"We want to congratulate Michael on an illustrious career and thank him for immense contributions to Atlanta United,'' technical director Carlos Bocanegra said. "His career accolades speak for themselves, but during his time in Atlanta, he was a consummate professional and played an integral role for us, both on and off the field.

Parkhurst, born in Providence, Rhode Island, also played in the Danish Superliga and spent one season with Augsburg in the German Bundesliga before returning to MLS with Columbus Crew in 2014. He was a member of the U.S. national team for eight years, notably competing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"In addition to solidifying our back line for the 2018 MLS Cup championship run, he was also an influential figure in building our club's culture and we're forever indebted to him for that,'' Bocanegra said. "He'll always be welcome back at Atlanta United.''

Parkhurst finally won his first MLS Cup last December, having fallen short four other times.

But, after finishing in the top five in Defender of the Year voting in 2018, his playing time diminished significantly this season with the emergence of Miles Robinson. Parkhurst has only 14 starts and 18 appearances in 31 league games.

Still, he remained an important figure in the locker room and off the bench.

With Atlanta United already clinching a spot in the playoffs for the third straight season, Parkhurst has a shot at one more trophy before he retires.

"For now, it's back to the grind, it's back to practice,'' Parkhurst said. "We've got a big one Wednesday and I'm looking forward to it.''