For five years, Jeff Parke called New York home. Playing with the MetroStars and Red Bulls, he went from the last player selected in the SuperDraft to being named to the franchise’s all-time Best XI at a ceremony last year.
However, they went through a rocky split and the Sounders FC selected Parke in the expansion draft, moving the lifelong Northeasterner to the Pacific Northwest.
The Sounders finally signed Parke just prior to their road match with the Red Bulls last season, but Parke did not make the trip. So when he takes the field on Saturday, it will be the first time he steps foot on the field since the Best XI ceremony.
“It’s been a while,” Parke laughed. “It was nice. They flew me in and had a car take me around and everything. The ceremony was actually very quick, but it was a nice gesture.”
Parke viewed the ceremony as something of an olive branch from the Red Bulls organization after the difficulties the two sides had just one year prior.
“The most important thing is that the fans and I were together. It was sad for me to leave that organization, but at the end of the day, it was time to move on,” he said. “I’ve always liked the fans, so going back there is going to be nice.”
Growing up in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, then playing his college soccer at Drexel University in Philadelphia before playing his pro ball for the Red Bulls, Seattle is the first place outside of the Northeast that Parke has called home.
To say he’s adapted well to his new surroundings may be an understatement.
“It’s definitely more laid back. They take pride in more things in the Northwest. It’s a more caring environment,” Parke said. “It’s just a better way of life, I think.”
The only thing the Northwest is missing, he says, is his family. And that is another reason he circled the New York trip on the schedule - an opportunity to see his family.
“It’s going to be good to be around my family and for them to see the game,” he said.
The match kicks off at 4:30 Pacific Time and can be seen live on KONG television.
The Sounders next home match is Friday, March 25 against the Houston Dynamo. Tickets are still available for the match and can be ordered here or by calling 877-MLS-GOAL.