It was just the third league match for Jeff Parke in a Philadelphia Union uniform.
Yet it seems as if Parke has been here forever.
One of the newest acquisitions in the offseason, Parke has been stellar on the backline for the Union during their 2-1-0 start to the 2013 season.
Much like last Sunday’s 2-1 win at Colorado, Parke helped control the backline in an impressive 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution at frosty PPL Park Saturday.
“Jeff is exactly what we expected him to be coming here,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “You can see he’s so confident back there. He’s leading the back line. Amobi (Okugo) and him have formed a really good partnership right now. I think winning a game 1-0 is really important.”
Parke was acquired from Seattle for allocation money and a first round pick in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. The scenario was perfect for Parke because it meant he was coming back home where he starred in high school and collegiately at Drexel.
But adjusting so quickly to a new club isn’t so easy. Or is it?
“For sure, it goes off to the guys,” said Parke, a former standout at Downingtown West where he led the team to consecutive PIAA state championships. “The guys have welcomed me and made it easy for me to adapt and be a part of the group so they’ve a really good job making it comfortable for me. It doesn’t hurt that I’m in my hometown. That always is a plus.
“To play in front of them as I’ve said a lot of times is a dream. I try to give it everything I have to play well for the crowd, for the team. It’s just good to play in front of them.”
From preseason training through the first three leagues matches, the backline especially seems to have meshed.
Parke’s teammates say it was an easy transition because of his overall makeup on and off the field.
“It’s just that fight he has,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “He fits in so well. He’s just a warrior. He does the little things so well. He battles for everything. He’s a leader. He’s a big addition for us to have and he’s really shown it.
“I think anytime we get a new player, we try to welcome them as best we can, treat them as an addition to the team that we want. We want Jeff here. We’re lucky to have him. We’re happy to have him. He fits in perfectly with the guys here. We’re a team and we’re close and Jeff’s a welcomed addition.”
The final score shows it was a clean sheet, but Parke realizes there is improvement to be made across the board.
When you come up with three points in nasty conditions like this, you take it.
“I thought everybody played well,” Parke said. “We did a good enough job to get the result. We gave up a couple chances but that’s going to happen in a soccer game like this. Some balls get knocked around and maybe you lose concentration for a bit. We’re going to look at some of the mistakes that we made and chances we gave up and try and correct them. All in all, it was good.
"It wasn’t just the back four, it was the guys in front of them that made it difficult for them to get after us. Zac (MacMath) made some big saves to keep us in the game. Hats off to him, and it’s a good win for the group.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org