FOR JEFF PARKE, who grew up in Downingtown and played soccer for Drexel, coming to the Union is a dream come true, and he said just that in a conference call with the media on Monday.
"It was always a mission for me to become a part of this team and help this team become a force in the league," said Parke, 30, a 9-year Major League Soccer veteran who plays centerback. "I have grown up here and been around the Philly area my whole life and to come back full circle and hopefully finish my career in the place where I started it is always a dream, something I am thankful for and cherish."
Parke was acquired last week from the Seattle Sounders for a draft pick and allocation money. He talked about growing up in the Delaware Valley without a pro soccer team. The Union came into existence in 2010.
"I was frustrated that with Philly being such a big market I always wondered why Philly didn't have a team," Parke said. "So once the team came around it has always been a goal of mine and my family to come back and play, so I am ecstatic that the dream finally came true."
Parke will be joining a Union team that did not make the playoffs this past season.
"They already have a good back line, it's just a matter of adding a couple of good pieces throughout the year," he said. "I have seen the ups and downs; it's about giving the young guys some confidence. If you look at it, [the Union's] team defense last year was one of the better ones in the league, so I just hope I am able to add to it."
Said Union manager John Hackworth of acquiring Parke, days after the return of fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux: "It's really important, [with the way] things are always changing in this league . . . to bring a centerback of Jeff's quality was really something we couldn't pass up at this point," Hackworth said. "It was a long process as most of these things are, but it was Seattle honoring Jeff's request to move a bit closer to home and our desire to have him here is what really got this deal done."