He was Seattle’s best defender last season, but because of the cap crunch that befalls teams that have the Sounders’ success (also see Real Salt Lake), Jeff Parke was unlikely to return to Seattle. The defender made $185,300 last season, a number that already cramped Seattle’s cap situation. That other teams were willing to pay more meant the 30-year-old Pennsylvanian was always likely to move.
Now it looks like the Philadelphia Union have landed Parke, their second major move in as many days. After bolstering their attack on Thursday with a trade for Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia’s solidified their defense by bringing in one of the league’s more reliable center backs. It doesn’t hurt that the guy went to Philadelphia-based Drexel University.
Terms have yet to come out. We don’t know what Philadelphia’s giving up or paying. (Note: Announced terms have allocation and a supplemental draft first round pick going to Seattle). For a team that already had Carlos Valdes and Amobi Okugo, it’s an extravagant purchase. Perhaps John Hackworth sees Okugo going back into midfield. Then again, Philadelphia’s new coach was the man who dropped him back into defense, where Okugo showed real promise. Regardless, the Union had defense covered.
Parke is a more finished article than Okugo, and to the right of Valdes provides a solid stay-at-home, physical alternative to the Colombian international. But he’s not an all-star caliber player. He’s solid, consistent, and was a key to a Seattle defense that gave up the second-fewest goals in the league. He’s not one of the league’s best defenders, even if his salary’s creeping toward that stratosphere.
Was the expenditure for Parke (who will likely cost Philadelphia some allocation money) worth it?
For Seattle, it’s a blow. The defense’s weaknesses were already being masked by the stellar play of Osvaldo Alonso and Michael Gspurning. Those two can probably continue to obscure most the shortcomings of the Sounders’ defenders, but as we saw in Real Salt Lake’s late season visit to CenturyLink (when Zach Scott picked up two first half yellow cards), two stars can’t always protect the defense. And for all their regular season proficiency, the defense was torn apart by LA in the game that mattered most.
It makes for a curious move. Parke is a very good defender that’s peaking salary-wise. Philadelphia is better with him but don’t need him. And Seattle, where Parke seemed to fit perfectly, now has a hole.
Of course, they have four months to fill it.