Weary Parke, Sounders take advantage of rare down time

Jeff Parke of the Seattle Sounders

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TUKWILA, Wash. — Four days next to a pool was just what Jeff Parke needed.

The Seattle Sounders defender, like many of his teammates, decided to take advantage of the recent break from training to visit friends and family. Parke headed to the Philadelphia area of his youth, where he enjoyed a series of sunny days in which temperatures crept into the 90s.

“You need it,” said Parke, who noted the one downside was the mosquito bites. “As much as some people think you can just keep playing, and the young guys can just keep pushing, I’ve figured out you need a break here and there to just really get away from the game and enjoy being with family and friends. Just put soccer on the back burner.”

Now, he says he’s recharged and ready to go.

“During the season, it’s just go, go, go, and you get caught up in the hustle and forget you’re playing a game you love and that a lot of people would die to play,” Parke said.

To hear the players and coaches tell it, that time away was practically a necessity. The Sounders recently finished a stretch in which they played 10 games between April 28 and June 5, going 6-2-2 over that stretchh. Starting with Saturday’s game at Montreal, they’ll play seven games 22 days.

Although three of the Sounders’ matches during this stretch were part of the US Open Cup, they will have played 14 of their 34 MLS matches between April 28 and July 7, including six of them during the upcoming stretch.

“It’s tough for them,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said of the compressed schedule. “Today, we were just trying to get the legs back under them. Tomorrow we’ll play to get some rhythm. Wednesday is the one day we can really train and then we’re getting ready. Then [it’s] one game to another to the next game. But it’s good, we want to get points in MLS.”

That the Sounders have so far handled the crowded schedule well has helped keep spirits up. But there’s also a sense that the Sounders need to appreciate these breaks as they come, as it doesn’t promise to get any easier as the season goes on.

“You probably want them spaced out a little bit but if you space it out you don’t get to have these breaks and spend some time with the loved ones,” Parke said. “Once August comes around, it seems like we don’t have any breaks.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.