Life after Jeff Parke has been a pretty obvious thought and transition for most of us. I think going into the off-season it was something that many of us considered to be a casualty of the system in which the Sounders are a part of. The situation with his family obviously desiring him closer to home was simply the second strike, and in this game that was enough. So we turn our heads to the new permanent pairing of Patrick Ianni to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado on the Seattle back line.
The thing that we have to do most often, and really it’s an easy thing, remember Ianni isn’t Jeff Parke.This is an obvious fact and distinction that I’m sure both Mrs. Ianni and Mrs. Parke can both easily make visually and even assuredly over the phone. That’s also assuming there is a Mrs. Ianni, I realize now that I just kind of made an assumption and passed it off as fact. But I did so with the intent of making a point and addressing the fact that both players are dissimilar, not just in appearance but also in play too.
Jeff Parke upon being acquired from the New York Red Bulls was not unlike where Patrick Ianni is now. Both nearing their late 20’s and both with a physical style of play that at times can hurt as much as it can help. Parke had a ceiling of missed opportunities and was coming off a bit of controversy that lead him to the USL and a short stint with the Whitecaps. But upon his return to MLS in 2010 he obviously brought with it a smarter style of play. It wasn’t purely about physical domination and attempting to constantly tackle and win the ball back, it was smarter than that. It was picking his moments. Parke grew up somewhere in that turmoil and it lead to him morphing into the Sounders top defender in 2011 and ’12.
Patrick Ianni is about to take that step. This isn’t the first time he’s had that opportunity, with 25 starts in 2010 with the injury to Hurtado, the question going into the season is possibly whether or not Ianni’s grown up himself. The past two years being stuck in a time share with Hurtado and Parke have shown slow but steady improvement by the man from North California. Yet its easy to question how much room is there left for growth and if he can reinvent himself in the manner of Parke. The smarter more calculating defender that relies less on his physical tools.
It’s obvious just from his performance over the last year that he’s clearly ready to be a starter within MLS. And I would love to have some fancy stats to throw out for you that helps build that confidence. Maybe some how it would compare and project some symmetry between Ianni and Parke that instills trust for his growth in the position. But, again Ianni isn’t Parke. He likely isn’t going to become an elite defender. He doesn’t have all the physical traits that made Parke so good and he doesn’t have that deep Drexler intelligence to fall back upon. But that won’t keep him from becoming a main stay within this line-up. Having Ianni isn’t about replacing Jeff Parke but rather it’s about him and his growth within MLS as he’s given a starting job and what he’ll look like a year from now.