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.