At start of another grueling stretch for Philadelphia Union, Jeff Parke ready to return vs. Montreal

CHESTER, Pa. – After just wrapping up one three-games-in-eight-day stretch, the Philadelphia are now poised for another.

Luckily for them, center back Jeff Parke is set to return the lineup when the Union kick off the grueling week with a road match against the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Saputo Stadium (7 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week).

Parke had missed the past three games with a hamstring injury.

“If called on, I’ll be ready,” Parke told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m definitely getting antsy.”

Parke will almost certainly be called upon now that his fill-in for the past three games – Bakary Soumaréhas been dealt to Chicago. With another defensive option in Gabriel Farfan also gone following a recent trade, the Union come into this week’s action very thin along the backline.

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But they will try to showcase their depth in other areas of the field as they follow Saturday’s game against the Impact with a May 28 US Open Cup opener vs. the Ocean City Nor’Easters and then another trip to Canada on June 1, where they will face Toronto FC.

“I think what we’ve shown over the past 10 days is we’re deep,” Union technical director and assistant coach Rob Vartughian said. “We have players that have come in and contributed. That’s something we may have to tap into going into this week. We just have to see how it goes once we get through the weekend.”

One area of the field where the Union will have to make some lineup decisions is in the midfield where Vartughian indicated that playmakers Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel and Kléberson are essentially battling for two spots.

“Right now we’re happy with that problem,” Vartughian said. “All three guys have a ton of quality. So at moments like this, when we have three games in eight days, we’ll see what the pairing looks like and where guys are.”

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The Union will also likely continue to rotate Sébastien Le Toux and Conor Casey at striker alongside Golden Boot leader Jack McInerney.

The only area of the field they aren’t too flexible is on the backline. But with Parke back in the mix to anchor the unit, the Union (5-4-3) are confident they’ll be able to slow down a Montreal team just two points ahead of them in the standings.

“They’re at the top of the table and we want to keep inching our way up,” Parke said. “There are not that many points that separate us from them. It’s basically a six-point game.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.