Sounders’ Jeff Parke keeps eye on ball after face full

Apr 14, 2011, 5:59 AM | Updated: 11:01 am


Sounders defender Jeff Parke. ( Gershovich)

( Gershovich)

You couldn’t help but feel Jeff Parke’s pain in last Saturday’s Seattle Sounders victory over Chicago Fire. The veteran defender dropped like a sack of potatoes when a free kick nailed him in the face from point blank range.
The move showed both an occupational hazard, and an instance of taking one for the team.

I spent a few minutes with Parke after Sounders training this week to find out whether he was worse for the wear.

“Jaw was a little sore, but I think the nose took the brunt of it,” said the 29-year-old Parke. “I didn’t feel anything afterward, but then a couple days later the swelling started to kick in. It hit me so square, it didn’t affect just one area, which is good.”

While Sounders FC is unbeaten in the last three MLS matches, they have yet to produce a shutout, or “clean sheet.”

Cleaning up free runs down the middle is an area of constant attention, according to Parke.

“Depending on the opponent and the scheme, you have to adjust certain ways,” he said. “Playing with different guys back there also means you have to get used to each other’s style of play.”

What that means is teammate Patrick Ianni defends his man a bit different than Jhon Kennedy Hurtado does.

Parke was obviously elated about the marvelous work behind him. Kasey Keller made three spectacular saves against the Fire.

“You know it’s always great to have a keeper like him behind you, cleaning up all our mistakes,” says Parke. “Making those big saves kept us in the win column. Hats off to him.”

Parke and I both are defenders, and both originally from Pennsylvania. I was born in York. He was born in Downingtown. We talked a lot about the road game against the Philadelphia Union this Saturday.

“I played a lot of baseball when I was young,” says Parke. “My dad didn’t want me to play football. I played soccer because some buddies did it. While I liked baseball, when I got into junior high, I lost interest because it became slow and boring.”

Parke found soccer more fast-paced and to his liking. He wound up playing for Drexel University in Philly.
The Union lead the MLS East standings, and are drawing well in their second season.

I asked Jeff whether he is surprised the MLS has caught on so rapidly in an area which already has pro football, baseball, hockey and basketball.

“I always knew there was a bunch of soccer fans there,” Parke said. “It’s tough getting them out there where the field is.”

The Union’s home stadium about 30 minutes north of Philly.

“But if they play exciting, winning soccer, the people will come out,” says Parke. “Growing up there were always tournaments every weekend. The new stadium is beautiful, and I’m glad Philadelphia is getting fan support. We’d like to go in there and mix things up though.”

At least the weather will be more to the Seattle Sounders’ liking this weekend.

Last summer they lost 3-1 in sweltering, muggy east coast heat.

The Union feature former Sounders winger Sebastien Le Toux. Another scoring threat is the young and physical striker Danny Mwanga from Oregon State University.

“With Le Toux moving all the time,” said Parke, “you have to keep your head on a swivel.”

After Parke’s last face full of soccer ball, I said, “Jeff, keep your eye on the ball, but don’t lose your head.”

It’s a 12:30 pre-game show and Arlo White has play by play at 1 p.m. Saturday on 97.3 KIRO FM.

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