Philly Sports Live

Union Acquire Jeff Parke (UPDATED)

Seattle may have the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, but for a local boy returning to play for his hometown club, it’s always sunnier in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Union are expected to announce the acquisition of former US International Defender Jeff Parke from the Seattle Sounders later today.  The Sounders will recieve the Union’s first round pick in the 2013 Supplemental Draft and an undisclosed amount of allocation money.  A native of the Philadelphia suburb of Abington, Parke starred for FC Delco and Drexel University before joining MLS.  The 30 year old centerback was first linked to the Union back in 2010, and was rumored to be on the verge of moving to the Philadelphia club as recently as last week.  Those talks were said to have broken down, but sources close to both the Union and Sounders have confirmed to PSL that the deal will be completed following the MLS Re-Entry draft later today.  All MLS rosters are frozen until the draft ends.

The final player selected in the 2004 MLS Superdraft, Parke played 132 games over 4 years for the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars,  where he proved a divisive figure among the fan base, such as it is.  Controversy hit the defender when he was suspended for 10 games in 2008 for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.  Parke maintained that the substances were included in an over the counter supplement.  The suspension remains the longest in MLS history, and led to NY leaving him unprotected in that year’s expansion draft, where he was selected by the Seattle Sounders.

Parke was released by the Sounders prior to the start of the 2009 season, and he played several games with the Vancouver Whitecaps, then in NASL, and trialed with Mons in the Belgian league, before finally re-signing with the Sounders in 2010.  As a starting centerback he helped the sounders to two US Open Cups, but an ongoing conflict with head coach and noted longer-scarf-needer Sigi Schmid regarding effort in training led to Parke starting the 2012 season on the bench.  Working his way back onto the pitch, Parke started 29 of the Sounders final 30 games and was clearly their best defender during that stretch. Parke had reportedly pushed for a move to the east coast this season in order to be closer to his family, now residing in Downingtown.

Parke was called in to his first national team roster in January of 2012 and named to the 18 for the USMNT match against Panama. Although he saw the field following Geoff Cameron’s red card, Parke has not been called back since, and is regarded as having been passed on the depth chart by Mat Besler.

The trade for Parke gives the Union more depth along the back line than they have had at any point in their short history, with team captain Carlos Valdes, pricey mid season pickup Bakary Soumare and Amobi Okugo all capable of playing the centerback role.  It is likely that Parke will be used to spell both Soumare, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Valdes, who will be heavily involved in Columbia’s World Cup qualifying campaign.  The move also frees Okugo to return to his natural midfield role, the 8, presumably taking the departed Gabriel Gomez’ spot.  The move also effectively ends the speculation that the Union would look to take former Earthquakes centerback Ike Opara in today’s re-entry draft.

Parke’s salary will be of major interest.  He made just under $190k last year with Seattle, and with the Union having committed almost half a million dollars already to the CB position (more than $700k if you include Okugo) more moves could be on the horizon.

Stick with Philly Sports Live for updates regarding the Parke trade, as well as continuing coverage of the Union’s offseason.