Family came first for ex-Sounder Jeff Parke, who will face Seattle for the first time since requesting a trade to Philadelphia, his hometown team.
Jeff Parke had to stop thinking like a soccer player last season.
He and his wife, Jennifer, were ready to start a family, and living in Seattle — 2,500 miles away from their families in Philadelphia — wasn’t ideal.
So Parke, a father-to-be, went to the Sounders and requested a trade to the Union, his hometown team.
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“Seattle was a great place, but family came first,” the veteran defender said on a conference call Wednesday. “That’s how I organized it and asked for it to happen. Seattle was very accommodating and made that happen for me.”
An amicable split will be forgotten for 90 minutes, however, as Philadelphia hosts the Sounders at 1 p.m. Saturday, the first meeting between the teams since the offseason trade.
Parke said there will be a special feeling to the game against old teammates, and maybe some butterflies, “but you want to get a win so you can walk away and have some bragging rights for a while.”
On the other side, Sounders forward Eddie Johnson indicated the friends-turned-foes matchup will be fun but physical: “We used to battle and kick each other week in and week out last year.”
However it plays out, Parke will be in the middle. The 31-year-old has been a vital addition for the 3-3-2 Union, having played all 720 minutes this season.
Such production is why the Sounders might not have been thrilled to lose their two-time Defender of the Year, but coach Sigi Schmid said the franchise’s philosophy wasn’t “to keep him hostage here.”
Seattle received allocation money and a draft pick in the December exchange, which was a valuable return for a team that had serious salary-cap concerns coming into the season.
“We’d had enough conversations where I felt like the right thing to do was to try and work this out with Philadelphia, and in the end, we think it was a fair deal,” said general manager Adrian Hanauer. “We didn’t like losing Jeff, but I think it ended up working out.”
Parke, whose daughter, Camille, was born in December, feels the same way. Pushing for the move means his family doesn’t have to travel cross country to visit and is able to help him and Jennifer whenever needed.
“Those are the times and those are the memories that I look at as a father and say, ‘This is why we live here and this is why I did what I did,’ ” said Parke, who hopes to finish his career with the Union.
And the first game against his old club is also sentimental.
Parke, when asked to reflect on his three-year stint with the Sounders, called it “some of the best memories I’ve had, some of the best soccer I’ve ever played and one of the best organizations I’ve ever played for.
“Now I’m on to my next chapter. This is home.”
• Seattle has interest in signing U.S. international Herculez Gomez, who played for the lower-leagues Sounders in 2003, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
The 31-year-old forward, whose contract with Mexico’s Santos Laguna is up this summer, reciprocated those feelings in an ESPN.com story posted Wednesday.
“Seattle would be of serious interest for me, absolutely,” said Gomez, who has four goals against the Sounders the past two years in the CONCACAF Champions League.
When asked of the team’s interest in Gomez, Hanauer said: “(We) love Herc. Great guy, great player, but his rights are held with Kansas City, so any conversation of him coming to the league has to start with Kansas City.”
Gomez also told ESPN.com he has no interest in returning to Kansas City, noting his exit from the club in 2009 left a “sour taste” in his mouth.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.