Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Jeff Parke

Photo by Paul Rudderow

When Jeff Parke came to the Union from the Seattle Sounders, a two-time Sounders Defender of the Year, expectations were high. With Danny Califf gone, here was the veteran defender who would lead the back line and mentor the younger players on the squad, teaching them how to be winners.

The reality, to be honest, was underwhelming.

While Parke has been steady from the start — rarely making poor plays and reading the game well — he hasn’t been spectacular, either, and his play has often been overshadowed by that of his younger counterpart, Amobi Okugo. Many times, his most visible contribution was to get into it, verbally, with an opposition player.

But, while the Union as a whole has gone into something of a slump, especially offensively (this might be a slight understatement), Parke, and the Union defense as a unit, has become something quite impressive. In the 12 games since the beginning of July, the Union has six shut-outs and have given up multiple goals only three times. Even including the disaster that was New England, the goals-against per game average is 1.08. Exclude that result, and the total drops to 0.72 goals-against per game.

Perhaps most telling is the defensive performance since Okugo’s suspension for yellow card accumulation. While the team hasn’t won (or scored goals of their own), the Union have allowed just two goals despite fielding a shifted around defense, one a rather bizarre flicked goal by Shea Salinas, and another from a Houston set piece. Under sustained pressure for long periods, and without arguably their defensive player of the year, the back line has held firm, and the lion’s share of the credit must go to Parke.

In the end, he has been exactly what the Union were hoping for: a veteran leader to help nurture and mold the young players around him. Raymon Gaddis and Amobi Okugo both owe debts of gratitude to the steady presence that has lined up between them. Zac MacMath, too, has benefited greatly from the assured performances in front of him.

Let’s face it: Jeff Parke isn’t a highlight-reel player but he makes his mark by snuffing those players out. That’s why he’s PSP’s Player of the Week.

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