When Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach of the U.S. men’s soccer program from Bob Bradley in July of last year, he intimated that his first year on the job would involve a fair bit of experimentation.
His most recent squad list bears out a continued theme that was established in his first game in charge against Mexico Aug. 10, when he named two uncapped players in his match-day squad — the U.S. drew 1-1 with Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
A record of 2-2-1 has seen Klinsmann continue to rotate both the members of his coaching staff and his roster as he looks for the right combination to continue the success that the national team has had in recent years. Thus it was no surprise to find a few new names on the list of 20 that was called up for the friendly doubleheader against Venezuela (Jan. 21) and Panama (Jan. 25).
One name in particular should sound familiar to those ardent followers of Drexel men’s soccer.
Downingtown, Pa. native Jeff Parke has made the national squad for the first time in his professional career. A former standout for FC Delco during his high school career, Parke honed his skills under the tutelage of Drexel’s former head coach Lew Meehl during his stay in West Philadelphia.
An All-Conference Rookie first-team selection in 2000, Parke was an integral member of the Drexel team of the time that racked up 34 wins throughout a four-year period that saw the Dragons transition from the Atlantic East Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2002. Parke’s four-year tenure at Drexel culminated in him being named team MVP in 2003, as well as garnering the Don Yonker award.
Fresh from graduating from Drexel, Parke took part in the 2004 Major League Soccer draft, where he was selected in the sixth round by the MetroStars — the team was bought by the Red Bull GmbH in 2006 and renamed New York Red Bulls. Quickly finding his feet in New York, Parke racked up 126 starts and numerous individual awards, including Red Bulls Defender of the Year in 2007 and Co-Unsung Player of the Year in 2006 in his four years with the New Jersey-based franchise.
Parke’s time with New York would end acrimoniously though. Toward the end of the 2008 season, Parke and teammate Jon Conway were suspended for 10 matches each after they tested positive for two banned performance-enhancing substances: adrostatriendione and boldenone metabolites. It later transpired that the compounds were part of an over-the-counter supplement that the pair had purchased from a local pharmacy.
After serving out his ban, Parke tried his luck with a few teams in Belgium, France and Germany without quite finding the right environment. The arrival in MLS of the Seattle Sounders would see Parke granted a reprieve, and he took part in the draft for the second time in his career with the Sounders adding him to their roster in the 2008 expansion draft.
Unable to reach a suitable agreement with the Sounders and deemed surplus to requirements by the team, Parke was released without having played a single game. He signed a one-year contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer Leagues First Division, where he appeared in 11 games during the 2009 season.
2010 saw a change of heart from the Sounders hierarchy, and Parke was recalled to the franchise and awarded a roster spot for the upcoming season. Seemingly settled, Parke played in 26 games for the Sounders that year, starting 25 of them, logging 2,109 minutes in total and getting his hands on his first piece of silverware in his professional career in the form of the U.S. Open Cup.
Parke’s good form continued into 2011, where he started 28 games, logged 2,387 minutes, was named Sounders Defender of the Year, and provided an assist for Freddy Montero to score the first goal in the U.S. Open Cup Final against the Chicago Fire — the Sounders won the game 2-0.
Described as “a very hard-nosed defender” by his coach, Sigi Schmid, the 29-year-old Drexel alumnus will be looking to continue his impressive career with an appearance for Team USA in their upcoming games.
With only five other defenders named in the 20-man squad largely made up of MLS players, Parke will be hoping to catch Klinsmann’s eye, particularly with the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football qualifiers and the London 2012 Olympic Games on the schedule for the stars and stripes later this year.
There will be plenty of interest from this corner of Philadelphia to see whether the former Dragon will take the field in the red, white and blue when Team USA plays later this month.