Sounders FC defender Jeff Parke earned his first cap with the US National Team this week.
It didn’t happen exactly how he pictured it though.
While there are always tales of players stricken with the moment when they line up and hear the national anthem, Parke’s first appearance for the US National Team came in a much more urgent situation with much less time for him to take a moment to reflect on what he was doing.
In the 51st minute of their friendly match with Panama, the US suffered a blow when defender Geoff Cameron was red-carded.
Moments before the ejection, the players on the bench were sent to start warming up. When Parke saw the red card, he had a good idea what would come next.
The call came from the bench for Parke to replace Chris Wondolowski to give manager Jurgen Klinsmann four defenders in his lineup in front of young goalkeeper Sean Johnson to hold on to a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t even stretch, I just turned around and ran over,” Parke said on Saturday after his first training session in his return to the Sounders FC. “I waited for my jersey, put it on, then I was out there.”
The US held on for the 1-0 win and Parke returned from Panama City with the title “US National Team defender.”
“They were all over us, a man down,” he said. “But I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
Parke had a standout season in 2011, earning Sounders FC’s Defender of the Year honor while playing in 28 MLS matches and 39 in all competitions, anchoring the middle of the defense along with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.
Like his first call to enter the match, his call to training camp came at the last minute, too. Parke and Seattle midfielder Brad Evans were called on January 3 after defenders George John and Omar Gonzalez were late scratches. Both were in camp on January 4.
“I was surprised. I’m 29 and it was a younger camp. I felt like an old man,” he laughed. “I was also relieved and excited. I had one chance to impress and even though I wasn’t in the best shape, I just went in and did what I could.”
It was a long time coming for Parke. Among the top class of center backs in MLS for several years, he awaited the call each year, only to come up disappointed.
“Every time the January camp came around I felt like I had a chance to be recognized,” Parke said. “After going through it all, there are tons of players in each of these positions. Just to be called in and be part of the group, it’s good enough for me right now.”
Parke is in his third season with the Sounders FC. They leave Seattle on Monday for the Arizona portion of their training camp, where they will spend eight days in Casa Grande.