Several months ago, Jeff Parke approached the Seattle Sounders with a simple request: The veteran defender wanted to move closer to his family in Philadelphia.
Parke’s wish was granted on Friday when he was traded to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money and a first-round pick in the 2013 Supplemental Draft.
“We take winning and winning championships very seriously, but family trumps soccer,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer told MLSsoccer.com. “We feel like we were able to accommodate Jeff and have it end up as a win-win.
WATCH: Parke clears it off the line
“Obviously we're sorry to see him go, he's been a big part of our team for the past few years, but we're happy that we were able to take care of Jeff in this way.”
Although the move helps the Sounders get closer to being salary-cap compliant, letting Parke go was hardly ideal. The 30-year-old is coming off a season that started with his first United States national team cap and ended with teammates naming him the Sounders Defensive Player of the Year.
In between those highs, though, there were some lows. Parke was actually benched for Seattle’s first two games of the regular season – following a 6-1 loss to Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – and only got back onto the field when injuries cleared the way. At one point, Parke went public with his frustrations.
But even Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid – commenting before the trade was announced – was won over by the end of the season.
“There were a couple of times early in the season where I thought Jeff just didn’t want the ball enough and was happy when the ball went somewhere else out of the back,” Schmid told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that’s something that he really improved as the season went on. I think he took a lot more pride in his touches. He was much more available for us to play the ball to in the back. I think that really helped his game and made us a better team as well.
“There’s different ways of motivating people or whatever, I’m very happy that Jeff responded very well and I think by the end of the year he was definitely a Defender of the Year candidate.”
In just under three years with the Sounders, Parke helped the club to two US Open Cup titles and two CCL quarterfinal appearances. Seattle went undefeated in this year's group stage and will begin play in early March.