The Western Conference semifinal playoff loss to the LA Galaxy was crushing to the Sounders FC.
Perhaps nobody more than Jeff Parke, though.
In the 65th minute of the first leg of the series, he had to leave the game with an ankle injury. He tried to come back for the final leg, but he wasn’t able to and instead watched the match from home on television. Seattle lost the aggregate goal series 3-1 and Parke can’t help but think he could have made a difference.
“You don’t ever want to be hurt, but if you’re not playing you at least want to be at the game, so you can be a part of the group – win or lose,” he said. “Watching it at home on TV was definitely hard, but it’s part of the game. You just have to get past it and let that fire burn in the offseason. Losing at the end of the season never feels good, but it motivates you, it pushes you.”
And motivated he was in the off-season.
Shortly after the final match, he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left big toe – a problem that plagued him throughout the 2010 season. He then got engaged and went on a short vacation, but was otherwise stone-cold focused on redeeming himself in 2011.
His excitement over the announcement that Seattle would again face the LA Galaxy – a team that beat them four times in 2010 – in MLS First Kick on March 15 at Qwest Field is still palpable.
“Here we go again!” he said. “I wish they still had Buddle because it would be a nice, physical battle again, but Barrett and Angel is no easy task either. It should be fun and a great opening game. Knowing that all eyes will be watching our game, it’s a great way to open up. And who better to do it against than one of the best and best-known teams in the league.”
This season promises to be a different experience for Parke too. First, he is playing in his first full training camp with the Sounders FC after signing with the team in May of last season. Second, he will be paired with 2009 MLS Defender of the Year finalist Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who suffered an ACL tear that limited him to the first ten matches of the season.
However, Hurtado’s addition doesn’t take any pressure off of Parke, who is still competing with Patrick Ianni for a starting role.
“You still want to perform at the highest level, so you keep your foot on the pedal,” Parke said. “Even if there is a great player coming in, you know that your job is going to be just as hard. It doesn’t change anything. If anything, it makes us compete a bit harder for that starting spot.”
That defensive tandem could prove to be one of the stingiest in the league when all is said in done. In the meantime, they will continue to work hard toward March 15, striving each day to become better teammates and a better team.
The Sounders will train Thursday at their training grounds at Starfire before heading to Bradenton, Florida for the next leg of training camp. When they return, they will face the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps in the Cascadia Summit and the Colorado Rapids in the Community Shield match. The season opener falls on Tuesday, March 15 against the Galaxy. Single-game tickets for the regular season go on sale March 1.