They say “30 is the new 20.”
Jeff Parke hopes so. In a span of a year, the Union’s latest last line of defense has been summoned to do the same for his country…again.
Parke, 30, found his name among the 25 players U.S. national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann called into January’s annual training camp on Sunday. Coming off one of his finest seasons as a pro with Seattle, Parke became a sought after acquisition by Union manager John Hackworth and his crew.
“I’m very excited to be called into camp, anytime you can represent your country it’s an honor,” Parke told philadelphiaunion.com. To do so, at this stage of my career and to represent the Philadelphia Union is also a huge honor for me.”
Parke is the first active Union player to earn a call-up to the USMNT full squad and joins current Union players Chris Albright (1999-2007), Brian Carroll (2005-10), Conor Casey (2004-10) and Freddy Adu (2006-11) as the only players to crack the full squad.
Parke is in the ninth year of his pro career and this is only his second call-up to the national team. Since being drafted as the final pick by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2004, Parke has only been in the national eye in the last year, making his debut ahead of last January’s training camp. He earned his first cap in a losing effort to Panama, but it was the start of remaining in the back of Klinsmann’s brain.
“It's great being in any national coaches eye and being a part of the group,” Parke said. “Also at this stage of my career being called up is a good thing means I'm still playing a high level and still being looked at.”
However, Parke admits that earning a spot on the U.S. roster might have been more beneficial as a younger player. While Parke doesn’t foresee his career coming to a close anytime soon, he wonders the benefit of what it might have done both from a competitive and psychological standpoint.
“I guess it's better late than never being called at my age but of course it would have been a bit better to have been called up at a younger age,” Parke said. “I just think it would have helped better my career.”
It’s a career though that through time already has a wealth of accolades, beginning with his All-America play as a standout at Drexel University, a city program continually on the rise. In MLS, he was voted “Ironman of the Year,” as a defender with New York, but what put him on Philly’s radar and a must-have this offseason was his tenacity and steadiness that led to back-to-back defender of the year title with Seattle, and leading the Sounders in back-to-back U.S. Open Cup titles.
It’s arguably what piqued the attention of Klinsmann too, who ends this camp with a Jan. 26 friendly against Canada (9 p.m., ESPN2) before opening up what plans to be an arduous FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign beginning Feb. 6 against Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
“I wonder what it would have been like; but look I think I’ve had a pretty good career,” Parke said. “I am just thankful for everything, landing in Philadelphia, coming back home to where I am familiar with a great deal and having this chance with the national team. I look at it as one of those things that some people will never have the chance to experience, so I am just very humbled and grateful.”
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org