We last spoke to Jeff Parke before the first leg. He had a masterplan for the upcoming three hour battle with Real Salt Lake. It involved making a mark on their opposing forwards nice and early. Now the idea of kicking the other side’s best player and alerting him to the dangers of possession wasn’t invented by Parke, but after the triumph of a double clean sheet, it was interesting to canvas the almost inevitable stand-out defender on his views with hindsight on the series.
Jeff was not to know prior to the first leg about the refereeing tweak that allowed for a freer flow of the game and has made all four ties highly entertaining. Parke loves a physical battle anyway and in these days of floppery and embellishment, it is warming to find an old fashioned battler who can take it as much as dish it out.
When Prost Amerika calls a player a ‘throwback’, it sincerely is a compliment. Jeff Parke displays everything that was good about football in the old days.
Here’s the Q and A:
Prost Amerika: As a defender and from a team point of view, you obviously like to have nothing to do and all the action is 80 yards ahead of you, but you really do like to get stuck in and that was physical stuff?
Jeff Parke: Yeah. Especially in the beginning it was a little bit hectic but then at the end it was hectic again. It started hectic and it ended hectic. Definitely some good battles and guys getting stuck in. Physical play for sure.
Prost Amerika: Three hours you’ve kept a clean sheet against what is a very creative and good team. What does that tell us about the Sounders?
Jeff Parke: We’re doing well. We’re doing well as a group. We’re all getting after it , doing the dirty work, the hard work, and making it hard for opposing teams. They got guys who come at us. Everybody’s doing a great job right now.
Prost Amerika: You’re one of the guys who when you walk into the locker room, you usually have a smile on your face no matter where you’re bleeding from. When you’re out there involved in that kind of battle, do you smile at your opponents or do you snarl at them?
Jeff Parke: Smile when it is necessary but some more grins and grits because there’s some trash talk and there’s some pushing and pulling tonight. So yeah, it was smiling at the end but some physical play and some grins and some looks during the game.
Prost Amerika: Before the first game you told me that your plan was to put your mark on them early and let them know you’re there. How did that work out for you?
Jeff Parke: Definitely it worked out for us. We battled and we stuck in there and guys were fighting and competing, and made it difficult. The conditions weren’t the best. It was one of those games where you got to just grind and work it and go till the end. We had a great half the first and the second even better. Mario had a great strike and what a time for a very important goal.
Prost Amerika: How will the challenge of Keane and Donovan be different from that of Saborio and Espindola?
Jeff Parke: They’re kind of similar in a way but also different. Saborio is better in the air, but (we have to face) two quick guys now. They both like to play and drop off, and then one runs. They got good speed. They’re very good with their feet. They’re very creative and both can play the long ball and good balls so it’s going to be a difficult game but we’re up for the challenge.
Prost Amerika: You’ve probably noticed this watching all the games yourself but in these playoff series, the referees are letting a little bit more go, keeping their cars in their pockets, not blowing the whistle so early; that’s got to be something you as a tough defender are loving?
Jeff Parke: Yeah. It can be good but it also can be bad if they’re taking whacks at us but the guys are doing well and we’ve been getting after it. They (refs) have definitely let some things go and made it a little bit loose. Yeah, it’s better that way I think.