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Report: Three teams challenging Atlanta United to sign free agent Michael Parkhurst

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Could Atlanta United’s former center back be moving on.

MLS: MLS Cup-Portland Timbers vs Atlanta United FC Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC, New York City FC, and the Chicago Fire are all “in the mix” to sign free agent Michael Parkhurst after Atlanta United declined to exercise his option at the end of Atlanta’s 2018 MLS Cup-winning season, according to ESPN’s Taylor Twellman.

Twellman is reporting Atlanta United are asking Parkhurst to take a pay cut from the $340k compensation he received last season. Parkhurst was the sixth-highest earner of Atlanta’s non-Designated Players last season, though a large gap existed between his compensation rate and the next highest in the squad, Chris McCann at $560k.

Atlanta’s apparent demand for a reduced salary for Parkhurst is a clever gambit. Parkhurst, who will be 35 years old when Atlanta United’s first game of 2019 rolls around, has a cushy spot in Atlanta with possibly the best training facility in the league, a good rapport with teammates, decent weather and a settled family. Would he be willing to forgo one or all of these things in order to earn more money elsewhere? It probably depends on how much turkey we’re talking, and we really don’t have a definite answer to that at this point.

What we do know is that someone from Parkhurst’s camp, or Parkhurst himself, has leaked this information to Twellman — likely in hopes of starting a bidding war. At the very least, it’s an attempt to make Atlanta flinch, and with preseason beginning in only a matter of weeks, time is of the essence to get this matter resolved.