Jeff Parke always hoped it would happen.
But he was never sure. And he wouldn’t let himself be disappointed if it didn’t come to fruition.
After all, Parke still had a coveted spot in Major League Soccer, most recently with the Seattle Sounders as one of their steadiest and best defenders.
When his personal life changed – his wife gave birth to their first child, a baby girl name Camille three days ago – Seattle eventually traded Parke to the Union for allocation money and a first round pick in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft.
Parke was coming home in more ways than one.
“It’s a dream come true,” Parke said in a conference call on Monday. “Once the Union was a team in [MLS], it was always a goal of mine to be a part of their club and to help them become a force in the league. You know that being an expansion team, it takes a while.”
Parke was a high school standout at nearby Downingtown West where he led the team to consecutive PIAA state championships. He also played for youth powerhouse FC Delco and had a four-year career at Drexel University.
Over the last three seasons, Parke appeared in 78 matches for the Sounders as they reached MLS' postseason three straight times.
The goal now is to help the Union reach the playoffs for the second time in their four-year history.
“It will help, as I’ve been around for a while now,” Parke said of his experience. “I’ve seen the ups and downs and how the league works. I hope to give the young guys some confidence when they need it and to be the guy that says, ‘Sometimes, things aren’t going to be right.’ As long as you have some veterans, you can weather it and show the young guys the ropes.
“I think the [Union] have some really good players and some quality in the back four. Their team defense was one of the better ones throughout the year. It’s a good team that I’m coming to and I just hope to add to it and help the team get better.”
The Union were more than happy to work with Seattle on completing this deal. Yes, they were getting a hometown player, but they were also getting a pretty darn accomplished player as well.
“I think it's not only nice, it's really important,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “Things are always changing in this league. We always have to deal with a number of different situations. More importantly, to bring a centerback of Jeff's quality was really something we couldn't pass up at this point. It was a long process, as most of these things are. To their credit, Seattle was trying to help Jeff in his request to move closer to his family on the east coast. That's how it started. We had a lot of conversations with Seattle that ultimately worked out in us agreeing on terms.”
While Parke is still settling in following his cross-country move back home, he can’t wait to get started with the club he always wanted to play for.
“I've grown up here and been around the Philadelphia area my whole life,” Parke said. “I really hadn't left until I became a pro. It's amazing to be back, and to actually come back full circle, and hopefully finish my career in a place where I started it.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Andy on Twitter @andyjasner