Philadelphia Union defender Jeff Parke won’t carry a grudge when he faces his former team — Seattle Sounders FC — for the first time Saturday.
His primary emotion will be gratitude.
Parke was an original Sounders expansion draft pick and played for the team from 2010 through 2012. However, at the end of last season he asked the club to let him play out his career near his home and family in the Philadelphia area.
“The trade was something he had asked for,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s just one of those things where as a club our philosophy wasn’t to keep him hostage here.”
That was no small decision for the Sounders, as Parke was a mainstay at central defense last season: His 2,568 minutes were third-highest on the club.
Still, a deal was struck about three weeks after Seattle was eliminated from the playoffs.
“I was grateful to be sent
home,” Parke said in a conference call Wednesday. “I have another four years maybe left in my career, and I always wanted to play in Philly and end my career. Seattle was a great place. Family came first and that’s how I organized it, and that’s how I asked for it to happen. And Seattle was very accommodating.”
In exchange for Parke’s ticket home, the Sounders received allocation money and a first-round pick in the Supplemental Draft.
“Sometimes family trumps soccer,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “In this case there were enough issues and we’d have enough conversations where I felt the right thing to do was to try and work this out with Philadelphia. And in the end, we think it was a fair deal.
“Something was going to have to give in terms of working our salary cap. So, we didn’t like losing Jeff, but I think it ended up working out.”
The Sounders followed up with an offseason move that added Djimi Traore to help fill Parke’s old spot. Traore immediately moved into the starting lineup, alongside veteran Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Patrick Ianni could soon be added to the mix, as he is nearing recovery from a preseason foot injury.
Meanwhile, Parke quickly established himself in the heart of the Union’s back line and has started all eight games this season.
He’s convinced he made the right decision, but admits he has fond memories of his three seasons in Seattle. And he acknowledges those emotions could collide Saturday when he looks across the pitch and sees rave green jerseys.
“I’m home — this is where I’m from,” he said. “And then Seattle (is where) I’ve played the last couple of years, and I have a lot of great memories being there with that great organization.
“At the end of the day, I definitely want three points, and when I get out there I’m sure that I’ll have a little bit more butterflies because this is against guys that I’ve played with and we had friendships. It’s going to be a different game for sure.”
Schmid said it is too soon to determine forward Obafemi Martins’ status for Saturday. However, he indicated that forward Eddie Johnson should be ready, and that midfielder Steve Zakuani and defenders Traore and Marc Burch are progressing. “I feel reasonably confident about the health and fitness of the team,” Schmid said. “There are some guys who are still lagging behind fitness-wise.” ... Asked about rumors of mutual interest between Santos Laguna forward Herculez Gomez and Sounders FC, Hanauer acknowledged admiration for Gomez but noted that his MLS rights are held by Sporting Kansas City. ... The Sounders have no training session today as they travel to Pennsylvania.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com/soccer