Jeff Parke will be shutting down forwards and counter attacks up the wing this year. (Photo courtesy of Chris Coulter / SoundersPhotos)
Adam Johansson charging up the right flank to serve in threatening crosses will take some getting used to for the Seattle Sounders FC defense. How they respond - splitting three backs wide or dropping a center mid into the empty space - is a decision that is situationally dependent. It is also one that won't be made by the singular vocal leadership of Kasey Keller. Instead it will be a combination of field leaders. Jeff Parke will be one of those. Not only is he a seasoned veteran, but it is the space next to him that will be empty. After Friday's practice Parke relayed the shift in leadership;
I'm more of the vocal guy, at least until Mike's more comfortable with his English in there and learns how to yell and get after us guys and learns what works and what doesn't. So yeah, I'll be back there hollering and yelling, my voice doesn't travel as well. Kasey's so loud that we'll probably still hear him when he's up in the booth yelling. It's going to be more vocal for me this year.
Coach Sigi Schmid repeatedly has stated that there is not one leader on the team. And while one person will wear the armband as the captain, he expects leadership from many players on the pitch. His statement Friday was no different.
It’s a whole group of guys. [Jeff] Parke is one of the guys, more leadership from [Osvaldo] Alonso, from [Brad] Evans, [Fredy] Montero, as well, [Mauro] Rosales. All those guys are involved in that aspect. [Jhon Kennedy Hurtado] certainly talks a lot more, directs more. We expect the same thing from Jeff. The more leaders we have on the field the better team we become.
No matter who the leader is Parke knows that the differences between Adam Johansson and James Riley will force some adjustments in order to prevent goal dangerous moments from a counter up that right flank.
You just have to see how he plays. Adam likes to get up and down the right side, so it's definitely a bit different than James. James liked to sit a little bit more, but Adam's got a little bit more pace up and down there so it's definitely something that you have to be aware of and recognize and get after it early and communicate early. If you lose that gap and maybe then it [the ball] comes back down in that area it's going to be a difficult one to prevent or slow down.
In 2011 the Sounders were a touch weak on the counter. One way to improve is to improve possession thereby preventing it from ever happening. Another way is for the cover the empty space in different manners, Jeff Parke will be a key component of that in 2012.