Photo: Earl Gardner
Jeff Parke spoke to the media on Monday morning via conference call and reiterated how excited he is to play for the team in the area where he grew up. “My family has always been saying, ‘You’ve got to get back to the Union and play in front of your home fans. It’s always been a goal of mine and a dream of mine. It’s something we’re all very excited about and very thankful it’s finally come true.”
He continued, “It was always a mission for me to become a part of this team and help this team become a force in the league,” adding, “I’ve grown up here and been in the area my whole life. I hadn’t left the area until I became a pro. It’s amazing to be back and come full circle and hopefully I can finish my career in the place I started it.”
John Hackworth spoke of the importance of that desire to play for the hometown team.
We want players who want to be here. Our staff believes that when you have players that want to be in a place, they are more motivated, driven. Every part of being a professional athlete makes a little more sense when a player is happy, they come to work with a smile on their face and something to prove…The Philadelphia culture is different than some other markets in our country. Understanding that dynamic, understanding the passion our fans have and demands of our athletes. [Union defender and Philly-native] Chris Albright understands and gets it and I don’t think there is a doubt that Jeff understands and gets it. It helps other guys in our locker room. Having players who are from here and have that immediate identity, a lot of local ties, it’s really important.”
Of course, the move is about more than a homecoming, the Parke signing is also about depth. Hackworth said, “I look around our league, I look around the world at teams that put themselves in positions to win championships, and every one of those teams, for the most part, there is depth at the most crucial positions.”
Along with that depth comes flexibility. Hackworth explained, “We have an extremely long season, we have many ups and downs. We need to have a very competitive choice in selecting the best players for a given game, or a given stretch of games…We now know that we have some flexibility. It allows us to move Amobi [Okugo] who was arguably the biggest surprise as a central defender in this league in the second half of the season. It gives us a lot of flexibility in not only who we play but how we play.”
It’s season review time at MLSsoccer.com and Monday was the Union’s turn. In the Armchair Analyst review, Matthew Doyle writes, “Let’s just come out and call the 2012 Philadelphia Union season exactly what it was: the most stunning, inscrutable deconstruction of any MLS playoff team in the history of the league.” Yep.
Doyle continues with a zinger aimed at Freddy Adu. He set’s it up by saying that “a number of youngsters showed that they could be built around for the next couple of years with reasonable hope for success.” He continues,
“First and foremost among them is Freddy Adu. Nah, just kidding – he was mostly terrible, save for his set piece delivery (which remains fantastic). Freddy was supposed to be the standout youngster on this team, but he struggled to have any sort of consistent impact on the wing either going forward or in possession.”
The Opta Spotlight review notes the need to take more shots and create more chances and highlights Carlos Valdes’ development into one of the elite defenders in the league.
Dave Zeitlin presents a list of Best and Worst moments and names Valdes Team MVP and Antoine Hoppenot Best Newcomer followed by some offseason needs.
John Hackworth says in a Q&A that he wants to build depth at left back and to find help for Michael Farfan. “Michael Farfan is our playmaker, but we also ask him to do so much and I’m not sure that’s totally fair to him. If we can find an excellent true attacking midfielder who that was their sole job to handle the workload and also has the experience needed for that kind of position at this level, that would be fantastic.” Indeed it would be fantastic.
Soccer America says of the Le Toux and Parke signings, “Both are good players with strong ties to the area.”
Chandler Hoffman, home in Alabama to help promote the recent College Cup Final, talks about the tough adjustment to MLS. “For me, the biggest aspect was the physicality of the league. In college, the center backs you’re playing against aren’t humungous.”
DC United blog Black and Red United asks what if Danny Cruz hadn’t been sent to the Union in return for Lionard Pajoy, a move that was widely unpopular in DC at the time, and concludes, “most of us have come around.”
Finally, don’t forget that it’s “Le Touxday” tonight at Kildare’s in West Chester to welcome back Sebastien Le Toux. The party starts at 6:30pm.
Here’s a look at where Reading United alumni Steve Neumann, named the College Cup Offensive MVP, might rank among previous MVP winners.
La Salle goalkeeper John McCarthy has been named to the NSCAA All-Region first team. Jason Plumoff and Joe Farrell received third team honors.
Swarthmore’s Peter Maxted has been named the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Academic All-Area Team Performer of the Year (click here for full All-Area team list). Maxted was earlier named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division III Men’s Soccer First Team and the NCAA Division III Men’s All-America Second Team.
Maxted, along with teammates John Pontillo and Michael Stewart, also received NSCAA Mid-Atlantic All-Region first team honors, with Jack Momeyer receiving second team honors.
The NSCAA High School All-America team selections have been announced. For the boys, there’s Hunter Dann (D – Salesianum School, Wilmington, Del.), Brandon Hudik (D – Bordentown Regional, Bordentown, N.J.), Connor Maloney (M – Bishop McDevitt, Harrisburg, Pa.), and Adam Bainbridge (F – Wilson, Sinking Spring, Pa.). For the girls, there’s Emily Gingrich (M – Governor Mifflin, Shillington, Pa.), Garcelle Alequine (F – Padua Acad., Wilmington, Del.), Alexis McTamney (F - Bordentown Regional, Bordentown, N.J.) Megan Schaffer (F – Neshaminy, Langhorne, Pa.), and Madison Tiernan (F – Eastern ,Voorhees, N.J.)
Former Union goalkeeper Brian Perk has a new deal with LA Galaxy. Good for you, Perksy!
FC Dallas have signed 33-year-old French central midfielder Peter Luccin.
Union Dues has a Best Bargains XI, a side made up of high performing, low cost players.
At Sporting News, Brian Straus looks at what Jurgen Klinsmann has done with the USMNT over the past year, all of which stems from this motto: “You can only get better and get closer to the best in the world if you do more than them.”
Straus also looks at the lethal strike combination that is Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach.
Ives Galarcep has an interesting article looking at the myth of the one “that got away,” players who could have played for the USMNT but ended up playing somewhere else. Turns out there aren’t as many as you might think.
At Goal.com, Avi Creditor has a holiday wish list for US soccer fans.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy says FIFA (and the IOC) should change their calendars to allow more countries to host sporting events.