In the hunt

Jeff Parke finds himself with a chance to start in opener

It’s been a few years since Jeff Parke has played right back.

Like riding a bicycle, though, he looked as comfortable as he’s
been all preseason when he played there in a training session on Tuesday
as the Sounders prepare for the absence of James Riley due to a
red-card suspension in the season opener.

“I’ve got to get used to the fitness out there and positioning,”
said Parke, who joins a list that includes Brad Evans and Zach Scott,
among others, as possible fill-ins while Riley serves his suspension.

Typically a center back, Parke joins a long list of players that
fill that role for the Sounders FC, including incumbent starters Jhon
Kennedy Hurtado and Tyrone Marshall as well as reserves Patrick Ianni
and Taylor Graham.  That logjam has aided in the competitive battles for
playing time, something that all of the players involved embrace.

“It’s good.  It’s healthy competition,” Parke said.  “You have to
push each other because if you’re not competing and you’re not getting
better every day, you’re going to start getting complacent.  Next thing
you know, you start getting lackadaisical in games.  It’s a good group
of guys and good players.”

The move, if only brief, to the outside gives Sounders FC head
coach Sigi Schmid even further options as he seeks the right
combinations on the field to help the Sounders continue their success
from their inaugural season.

Parke could figure into that greatly, particularly in the later
months of the season when the Sounders FC schedule has the potential to
get quite hairy with CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup games, in
addition to their normal schedule load.

He came to the Sounders in 2008 in the expansion draft and was
one of the players that technical director Chris Henderson was
particularly fond of, having played with him in 2006 with the New York
Red Bulls.  However, Parke was out of contract and the Sounders couldn’t
reach a deal with him during the 2009 season, so he instead played with
the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, seeing time in 11 games for the USL-1 side.

Now on trial with the Sounders FC, he has made his mark in
preseason since joining the team in La Manga, Spain in mid-February. 
And he hopes to stick with the club.

“I love Seattle.  It’s beautiful,” said Parke, who is staying at a
local hotel, but will change that if he stays with the team.  “I want
to get downtown.  You can feel the life and the energy down there. 
That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Before taking the field today, he was offered some advice by
Schmid about what he wanted to see out of him from the right back
position.

“Bust your tail the whole time,” Parke laughed.  “Be tight, be
physical and get up and down the line.  He wants me to use my pace and
try to create some havoc out there.  We’ll see.”

The Sounders FC play their final preseason game on the road
Friday night against the Colorado Rapids.  There will be a liveblog of
the match on SoundersFC.com.