The anticipation is already brimming.
Even though the Philadelphia Union don’t host Seattle Sounders FC until Saturday afternoon at PPL Park, Jeff Parke is anxiously awaiting this matchup.
Parke suited up in a Seattle uniform 78 times in league matches over the previous three seasons, culminating with three consecutive playoff appearances.
This will be the first time for Parke facing his former club.
“It does, for sure,” Parke said of whether this match is special because of the circumstances. "It’s always a bit of a challenge to play your old team, and when I was in Seattle and played against New York, it was a strange feeling. But you come out with a little bit of a different kind of energy. It’s something that you know the team, obviously, but you want to get a win so you can walk away and have some bragging rights for a while or for the year because we only play them once, so it’s definitely a different game.”
Parke was acquired from Seattle for allocation money and a 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft pick.
He never left because he was unhappy.
Parke simply wanted to come back home to be with family and his new baby girl.
When it’s game time Saturday, all those friendships will be put on hold for about two hours. At that juncture, it’s about seizing three points for his new club.
“It’s definitely a special one because I’m home and this is where my family is, where I’m from and I’ve got Seattle where I’ve played the last (few) years,” Parke said. “I have a lot of good memories being there. It’s a great organization and they do a lot of great things there. It definitely does have a different feel. At the end of the day, I definitely want three points. I definitely want to get out there and I’ll probably be having a bit more butterflies because it’s against guys I’ve played against and played with and we have friendships. It’s going to be a different game for sure.”
Parke has started all eight league matches this season for the Union and has become a steady presence on the back line.
His skill set has been everything the technical staff expected when the move was made in the offseason.
“I really don’t have anything but good things to say about Jeff because of the kind of person he is,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “How professional he’s been from the first day he arrived here. Not only that, he’s played very well and brought some leadership and continuity to our back line. Up to now in this part of the season, Jeff’s been very good. Jeff’s been a great acquisition for this club and him being a hometown guy is really important to us in a lot of ways because he totally gets the culture here in Philadelphia, the fan base, growing up here. I think it’s unique for anyone who understands. He’s certainly very valuable to us. I hope it lasts for a long time.”
Forget the fact that Seattle is 1-3-2 and in last place in the Western Conference.
Parke won’t be fooled. He knows what kind of talent Seattle has up and down its roster.
“They’re a different group this year,” Parke said. “Their backs are against the wall a little bit so it’s going to be a different feel and a different team. At the end of the day, it’s another game and we’re at home and we want to get three points.
“We respect Seattle and we respect their players and their quality and we know maybe they might be struggling but they have quality and you have to respect that. You have to go out and we don’t want to give them any chances or give them any fire or anything they can build the game off with.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org