Hicksville native enjoying pro soccer ranks
Think of any sports cliché—heart, guts, perseverance, desire, sacrifice—and you’ve essentially named the ingredients that separate the athletes who reach their limits, and those who transcend them. Talented players abound in soccer. Only a relative few get to play in the professional ranks. And there is no great difference in ability with those who fail to reach the next level.
Tim Parker of Hicksville joined that select group last year, when he was drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer (MLS). Since then the centerback has started all but one game for the Canadian club, and has played every minute of every game.
Parker’s league performance earned him an invite to the United States Men’s Under-23 (U-23) national team camp this past January. He won a starting spot as the squad played a two-game series last month against Colombia to determine the last spot to compete in this summer’s Olympics in Brazil.
After earning a 1-1 tie in what was described as the scorching heat and humidity at the Estadio Metropolitano in Barranquilla, Colombia, the U-23 squad fell 2-1 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. The team’s self-described “Road to Rio” had hit a roadblock.
“It was the most disappointing experience I have probably been a part of so far,” Parker emailed the News of the loss. “It was a once in a lifetime experience for me and I am very upset that I won’t have that opportunity to go to the Olympics. The locker room was down for sure. Everyone in the room felt we had the ability and chance [to advance]…so it hit everyone quite hard.”
In both games the Colombians held commanding edges in shots on net, and put constant pressure on the norteamericano defenders. Roger Martinez scored the winner for Colombia in Texas, taking a cross and quickly pivoting to blast a shot past goalie Ethan Horvath. Parker was closest to the striker, but could not react in time to stop the shot.
“I am not haunted by it at all,” Parker said of the winning goal. “That is soccer. You can’t control every outcome and be in the right spot on every play. No one is perfect. In my case after the game I knew the best thing for me was to refocus and get back with Vancouver and continue to put my head down, work hard and play well.
“Martinez was a very good forward and playing against him was a good opportunity for me to grow as a player as well,” he added.
Soccer cognoscenti took to the Twittersphere to praise Parker’s performance, especially after the opening round contest. During the second game’s broadcast, the ESPN analyst called him the squad’s defensive standout. Parker won every contested head ball and successfully took on Colombia’s wily dribblers.
One interested observer was his former soccer coach at St. John’s University, Dave Masur, who has sent numerous players to the pros.
“He was the man of the match [defensively for the U.S.],” Masur said of the game in Colombia. “He was outstanding positionally, played with composure, made some fantastic passes upfield. He was a physical presence, and played extremely well against some really athletic, talented people.”
Another viewer was his high school soccer coach, Hicksville’s Scott Starkie.
“I thought he was the strongest player on the US squad. I may be a little biased,” Starkie noted.
Love At An Early Age
Parker’s father, Ken, recalls Tim’s older brother Kevin playing in the Hicksville American Soccer Club. Tim, at age 3, “would tag along to kick the ball around.”
Ken began coaching Tim, and as his son grew he drafted trainers and coaches to help with his development.
“His family instilled in him a work ethic, being accountable and to challenge himself and get better,” said St. John’s Masur, who first saw Parker at a Disney high school showcase.
“Tim would rank right at the top of the players I’ve coached,” Starkie commented. “Tyler Arnone is also in the conversation. The two played together. Tyler plays with Real Salt Lake, although unlike Tim, he has yet to play with the top squad. I anticipate that changing. Tim, of course, was a high draft pick, and his play so far has proven it to be a fine pick.”
“The first time I saw Tim was also my first season with Hicksville,” Starkie related. “He was a much smaller injured freshman. I was an assistant then. I asked my friend, and then head coach Jack Fabrizio, if he thought it was worth it to take this injured freshman on varsity. He said, ‘I think we better take him.’ Halfway through the season, Tim was finally fit enough to to play, and I believe we told his dad he’d only play limited minutes. Well, we were up 1-0 against Freeport. He was defending so well we left him in the whole game.”
Parker “branched out” at Hicksvlle High School under Starkie. “I played forward and midfield because I wanted to use other positions to grow my game as a defender,” he said.
Observed Starkie, “He did pretty well playing out of position, [scoring] 23 goals.”
An honored athlete and member of the county champions, Parker gained experience in Portugal with the U.S. U-18 national team. He received Division I attention and opted to stay local when it came to college.
“I decided to go to St. John’s because of their success as a program both athletically and academically,” he said of the school, where he majored in finance. “They were very well known for producing professional defenders and I was learning from some of the best coaches in the country. I give a lot of credit to everything I learned at St. John’s and everything the coaches had taught me to make me the player I am today.”
Following a collegiate career in which he helped the Red Storm qualify for the NCAA tournament three times and win the Big East tourney in his freshman year, Parker was taken by Vancouver, the 13th player chosen overall in the 2015 MLS draft.
“I was extremely excited to be chosen in the first round of the draft,” Parker said. “I was honoured to be valued and given the opportunity from the Whitecaps. I wasn’t too nervous at all about how far Vancouver was from New York because I did need a change, after being in New York my whole life. Sure, playing closer to home would be nice in order to see family and friends. But in order for me to grow as a player and a person this was the best thing for me.”
Of his adopted city, Parker had nothing but praise.
“I enjoy living in Vancouver and Canada. It is definitely different than what I am used to back in New York, but Vancouver has so much to offer and I love my new home,” he said. “I strongly believe that Vancouver absolutely appreciates soccer. I love the support our fans give and the support of the organization.”
What Comes Next?
Masur feels that his former captain has the physical skills and ability to play at the international level; all he needs is to get more game experience.
“He has the dedication to keep improving and learning. He has the ability to be humble and focused,” Masur noted.
Parker was coached on the U-23 team by Andreas Herzog, an assistant on the national team.
Of his hopes Parker said, “I want to play as many games as I can this year and continue to learn and get better as a player. I had some conversations [with Herzog] and obviously there are things in which I need to work on in order to get to the next level and I’m completely open to working on those things…I do dream of an opportunity to play with the full team and represent the country at that level.”
As for his hometown?
“When I come back to Hicksville, I love to spend time with my friends and family,” Parker said. “I don’t have any specific places in which I go to, besides friends’ houses and just spending time with the friends I grew up with since I could remember.”
Ken Parker and his wife Kathy remains humble about their son’s progress.
“We realized he is a good player but didn’t believe how far he would go,” Ken said. “Even to this day day we are still amazed. I can’t say we feared that he would reach his limit, but we’re always very cautious and pleasantly surprised when he stepped up his game.”
Parker plans on seeing his son at Yankee Stadium on April 30, when the Whitecaps visit the New York Football Club at 1 p.m. He said that a group of more than 300 family and friends will be going to watch.
“I thought he had a big time future,” said Starkie. “I knew he was going D-1 back then. I think he’s not finished impressing us.”
Added Starkie: “He was always and still is a fine person. He is a great person to root for, and he makes Hicksville soccer very proud.”
The Parker File
• Born in Hicksville, son of Ken and Kathy Parker. Has an older brother, Kevin
• Lists his father as the person he most admires
• Favorite athlete: Former Giant defensive end Osi Umenyiora, two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ
• Majored in finance at St. John’s University
• Six-foot-2, 195 lbs.
• United States U-18 men’s national team pool in 2011
• United States U-23 men’s national team in 2016. Parker played all 180 minutes as team lost to Colombia in failed bid too earn a spot in 2016 Olympic Games.
Major Soccer League (MSL)
• First-round draft pick, Vancouver Whitecaps in 2015. MSL’s 13th pick overall
• Has started all but one game and has played every minute of every game
St. John’s University
2014: Captained the Red Storm. Earned his third National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Region selection
2013: Anchored defense that earned nine shutouts and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. First team NSCAA All-Northeast region, as well as first team All-Big East honours
2012: First NSCAA All-Region. Second team All-Big East honours. Red Storm leader in minutes played, helping the team to eight shutouts.
2011: Big East All-Rookie selection after playing over 2,000 minutes. His lone goal was a game winner in the Big East tournament first round against Georgetown on November. St John’s went on to win the Big East tournament.
Hicksville High School
• Gatorade New York Boys Soccer Player of the Year
• Two-time team captain
• NSCAA All-America and NSCAA All-Region II
• ESPN RISE All-American
• Nassau County Player of the Year