TUKWILA, Wash. — Jeff Parke is getting a harsh reminder about nothing ever being guaranteed in sports.
The Seattle Sounders center back has found himself on the bench for each of his team’s first two MLS games. This comes on the heels of starting the Sounders’ two CONCACAF Champions League games. In 2011, Parke started 38 matches across all competitions and was named his team’s Defender of the Year. In the offseason, he earned his first United States national team cap.
In light of all that, his current state of mind is probably predictable.
“I’m not happy about it,” Parke said after training on Wednesday. “But it’s the coach’s decision, he’s the one with the answers. I guess he’s put some thought into it.
“For me, it’s frustrating, but there’s nothing I can really do about it. Just go out and play and push for the spot. Do I agree with it? No. Do I think that’s the reality of it? No. That’s his take and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, views and thoughts. I’ll try my best to keep the frustration and anger down, but it is something that has been frustrating. But it’s part of the game.”
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Parke said he only found about his benching when the starting lineup for the Sounders’ MLS opener against Toronto FC was announced. He eventually talked to head coach Sigi Schmid about it and said he was given the opportunity to air his grievances.
“It was just showing my frustration and what I thought it was,” Parke said of the conversation with Schmid. “He told me how he felt. There was no yelling or anything like that. But there was definitely frustration and disappointment in it.”
After the Toronto FC match, Schmid told reporters that he chose to rest Parke because of “tired legs.” That’s apparently the same thing Schmid told Parke, even if he doesn’t agree with the assessment.
“I thought they were all right,” Parke said about his legs. “It’s two or three games into the season. That’s just his opinion.”
For his part, Schmid stopped well short of saying that Parke’s return to the starting lineup is just a matter of rotation.
Despite the setback, Parke said he’s trying to keep a level head. He wasn’t demanding a trade or sulking on Wednesday, but he was very open about his desire to regain his starting spot and his frustration over losing it. That could be complicated by the fact that the Sounders have allowed one goal in the two games he’s missed and that Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni have played well in his place.
“You just have to keep working and pushing,” Parke said. “As long as the team is doing well, that’s all that really matters to me, but in the back of my mind I also want to play. That’s something that I have to work on. Maybe grow a little bit as a player. If I were happy about it, I really wouldn’t be that eager to get back on the field.
“That’s not my personality to let something like that just go to just let the coach do his thing and not have my say.”
Parke turned 30 last Saturday, the same day he was left out for the second straight game. There was a cake in the locker room that had been left untouched. Parke wanted no part of any celebration.
“That’s something I’ll remember,” Parke said.
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.