Parke and Brad Evans returned to Sounders training today, their first day back from duty with the U.S. national team.
Here are some of what each had to say about that experience:
On how he found out: I was working out with (fitness coach Dave Tenney) and then I came home for lunch and got a call from Sigi and was on a flight the next morning.
Comparing camps under Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann) It was definitely different. I just remember with Bob from the get-go it was playing twice a day with fitness: It was pretty intense from the get-go. Jurgen’s philosophy is he wants everybody together on the same page, so I think for the first six days we maybe played on the field twice. I think the rest of the time was spent in the gym. … We spent a whole lot of time on little exercises making sure that everybody was on the same page, working on little technical things. Then we got on the field, and it was pretty similar, but it was a much smaller camp: 20 guys, three of those were goalkeepers, so with 16 field players it made for intense training. They were short, but it was very, very intense.
On playing in his hometown of Phoenix: Everybody came out. It was a great atmosphere. The second largest U.S. crowd for Arizona, which was good. It was 22,000, all Americans pretty much. Small contingency of Venezuelans. It was good to see old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and obviously get the result and send the fans home happy.
On his own performance: The first game was just all over the shop. It was get the ball down the field and try and score. The second game was much different: You’re down a guy, you want to try to keep possession and keep in their half – being up 1-0 – try to connect your passes. I think the guys who came on did well. We held the ball in the corner. We didn’t have too many chances on goal. They were really putting pressure on there for a while. I think toward the end they kind of died down. We were able to keep the ball in the corner, and they weren’t really pressing that much. We withstood the pressure and it was a tale of two different games and two difference scenarios.
On feeling more comfortable than for first call up: Obviously when you get your first call up you’re kind of nervous. You don’t know what to expect. This one I knew pretty much what to expect from the getgo. I think getting a late call up was beneficial as well. I hadn’t touched a soccer ball since the last game of the season because of my ankle, and I let them know that and the said, ‘No problem, if you need to get extra work in after practice, then we’ll do that to get your touch.’ But from Day One I felt good. Ankle felt good, body felt great, and that got me confidence going into it. And there weren’t the expectations that maybe an early December – they let you know in early December usually, and if you get that one you’re really, really working hard and you really want to show what you can do. But when you get that late day-before call up when camp has pretty much already started, it takes a little bit of pressure off your back and you can settle in and play your game. I think it was a comfortable environment for everybody – especially myself. I didn’t feel pressure form any angles. Nothing but positivity, so overall it was great.
On watching Parke’s national team debut: It was good. He is a guy who always is going to be prepared. He doesn’t stop working. He had his wedding and he got married, but other than that he’s a hard worker. From that aspect he’s going to come in fit, he’s going to come in strong. And his play is so consistent it always is what it is. He’s even keeled, so you always know what you’re going to get from him. I thought he did really well. It’s a really good contingency of players. It’s tough to break in. And the guys that Jurgen selected on the font end are probably the guys that he wants to see play. Unless you have an unbelievable camp, it’s hard to break through that starting 11 that he already had in his head. We obviously did the best we could, and we got playing time as well, so in saying that it was successful. And for Jeff getting his first cap, everybody was happy for him.
On experience living up to expectations: “Yeah. It was probably the longest preseason I’ve been a part of. Yesterday was my first day off. It was nice, but that’s what it’s all about. You battle and you see what it’s like to be at the highest level among some of the better players in the league.”
On where he got the call: “I was sitting on my chair in my bedroom, watching I think ESPN or something like that, on the third and they were trying to get me in that night. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. I got to go right now?’ I said, ‘I’m not even ready.’ They called me back later and were like, ‘We’ll get you a flight tomorrow morning,’ and I was like at least I got the night to say my goodbyes to my wife and her family and everybody else around. It was exciting.”
On his emotions: “I was definitely surprised, because I’m 29 … and it was a younger camp. I felt like an old man because most of the guys were like in their early 20s and there were maybe four of us over 25. Surprised, but relieved and excited and also nervous, because now you got one chance to impress. Even thought I wasn’t in the best shape I went in and did what I could.”
On getting sent the second game: “I got the call like at the last second. I was sitting on the bench (getting ready to warm up) and all of a sudden we get a red card and I’m like, ‘Oh (shoot).’ I was like, ‘I know my number’s going to be called soon,’ and I literally took two steps and they’re like, ‘Jeff!’ and I was like, ‘Oh, here we go…’ I didn’t even stretch. I barely did anything. Just turned around, ran over, stood there for a sec and waited for my jersey, put it on and got out there. Give it your best. Then I was thinking, ‘Oh shoot, we’re also a man down, too. Even better.’ The team was all over us, we were a man down, but I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
If he got any first-cap swag: “I got a little pat on the back and a nice ball signed by the guys and went down into the basement where we were eating and that was it.”
On the reception afterwards from friends and family: “Texts. Emails. Old players. That was the main thing, old players and friends that I haven’t talked to in at least two or three years were saying congratulations. I totally forget they even watched soccer. I was like, ‘Geez, a lot of people ending up following (me).’ But I think it was in the papers back home. I think that’s how a lot of people ending up finding out. I have a lot of people to get back to, but I guess that’s part of it.”
On if he thinks he left a good impression: “I wish I went in knowing the whole time that I was going to be in there, because then I could’ve been ready and prepared. But I guess that’s just the story of my life — everything that comes my way (is when) I’m not fully prepared. I was definitely a ride that was worth taking and a chance I wanted to take and go with. You obviously have the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m not ready. Could you cover for me? I don’t know if I can go at this time.’ But I knew this might be my only chance and there’s only time. I went out there and give it whatever I had and everything I was willing to give. I thought I went in there and did as much as I could. I gave them at least some impression that I’ve worked hard and I’m someone that can go in and be reliable. If you ever need me, I can come in and do the job. Hopefully they see it the same way.”
On emotions after the first game and being the only field player that didn’t get in: “I was frustrated. I was definitely frustrated because you go your whole career and you’re not used to coming off the bench much and you’re not used to not even being called on. It’s definitely tough. I also realized that I was one of the last guys to be brought into camp, so you have to pay your dues and suck it up. Some guys don’t even get to play at all during camp. I think if the red card didn’t happen I don’t even know if I’d have seen the pitch at all, because the way Panama was all over us it would’ve been tough to throw in a defender at that time. When I didn’t get in I was frustrated, but I was also thinking there aren’t too many times you get called into the national team, to be in camp and to be a part of something this exciting and represent your country. As long as I was out there and watching the game on the field and being a part of the group, that’s all that mattered to me at the time.”
On how much were these camps in his mind in previous years: “It always is. Every time the January camp comes around, I’m always thinking, ‘I thought I had a pretty good year. Hopefully I’ll be recognized this year. Maybe I can get called in and try to do what I’ve worked my whole career for, to be recognized and be a part of the group.’ People have different views and opinions. It’s tough to say because there are so many players and after going through it all you say, ‘Geez, there are tons of players.’ You start at them and looking at the positions and you’re like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of good players at each of these positions,’ so just to be called in to be a part of the group is good enough for me right now.”