In just five days, Jeff Parke is likely to hear his name bellow through the sound system at PPL Park.
For years, Parke thought about what that would be like.
As First Kick inches closer on March 2 against Sporting Kansas City, Parke is fully aware of what awaits him.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought too much about the situation because it’s an overwhelming situation in some ways,” Parke said. “Coming back to my hometown area was something I always wanted. Now that it’s here and I know it’s coming this quickly, it’s exciting, overwhelming. I’ll be walking on the field in my home area playing for a franchise that at one time I wasn’t sure would be in existence.
“I’m sure as we get a couple of days before the first game against Sporting Kansas City, I’ll start to get a little more nervous. It will be an incredible event seeing all the home fans and a lot of people that I know. There’s still so much work left to prepare for the match, but it will be a neat experience.”
In early December, the Seattle Sounders traded Parke to the Union for allocation money and a first round pick in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. Not long after, Parke’s wife gave birth to their first child, a baby girl named Camille.
For the former standout player at Downingtown West – where he led the team to consecutive PIAA state championships – youth power FC DELCO and eventually Drexel University, coming home was a huge change. Add a new baby and joining the hometown Union made the transition a bit more hectic.
This change is all good change but change nonetheless.
“No question it’s been a lot going on,” said Parke, who appeared in 78 matches for the Sounders as they reached the MLS postseason three straight times. “It’s been great being with family and friends and being back in the area. It’s what I wanted but wasn’t sure would ever happen. Things have settled down and I’ve been focusing in on the season and helping the Union in any way I can.”
Parke has always been a stabilizing force on the backline. It will certainly be the same type of scenario with the Union.
“I think when you add a player like Jeff, it’s great because of his experience,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “He has solid skills and he’s done it for so long. I think getting Jeff here is an incredible win-win situation for the club. Adding quality players is something you always want to do.”
Parke hasn’t been with his new teammates all that long. So far, he really likes what he sees.
“The guys are really coming together as a group,” Parke said. “There are a team of hard working players willing to learn and get better. I think the training sessions have been intense. All of our focus is on learning, getting better and improving. The season is coming quick, and I think we are continuing to get better every day. I like the progress we are all making.”
There’s a marathon season ahead and it’s a trek Parke is anxiously awaiting.
“To be honest, I really didn’t think Philadelphia would get a team at one point,” Parke said. “You just don’t know because you hope it will happen. But you never know. Then they get the franchise and you don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to play for them. Then the chance comes and it’s like, ‘(Wow), this is happening.’ I’ll start to think about it as it gets closer to the weekend. It’s just incredible all the way around.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com