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Originally published Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 6:40 PM

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Sounders FC's Jeff Parke unhappy with being benched

Sounders FC defender Jeff Parke hasn't played in the first two games of the MLS season, and he's not happy about it.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

San Jose @ Sounders FC, 7 p.m., KONG

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Parkes problem now is if Sigi starts him, everyone will think it was because he whined... MORE
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TUKWILA — Jeff Parke, Sounders FC's reigning Defender of the Year, hasn't played a single minute this MLS season.

He's not injured, and he's not happy sitting on the bench.

"It's the coach's decision," said Parke of Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. "He's the one with the answers."

"Do I agree with it? No. Do I think that's the reality of it? No. But that's his take. Everybody's entitled to their own opinions and their own thoughts. I'm going to try my best to keep the frustration and anger down. ... I guess it's a part of the game."

Seattle has started Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni at center back in its first two MLS games, and the defense has allowed just one goal in back-to-back wins. Schmid has long maintained that the team has three capable starters and the position has seen some rotation the past couple years.

Asked if he felt he proved his worth last season, starting a career-high 28 league games, Parke said: "I thought I did."

The 30-year-old was named in December the team's best defender after the 2011 season. A couple of weeks after that honor, he was called up by the U.S. national team for the first time.

Fast forward a couple of months, and Parke knows it'll take hard work to get back into the Sounders' lineup. The Sounders' starting defense for Saturday's 7 p.m. home game against San Jose will be determined later in the week, according to Schmid.

"That's how sports are sometimes," Parke said. "It's not always in your favor. You're not always in the coach's favor. It's the tough thing about sports, but you got to keep working and keep pushing. As long as the team is doing well, that's all that matters to me, really. But in the back of mind, I also want to play."

Parke started both of the team's games in a season-opening CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexico's Santos Laguna. Seattle lost the series 7-3 on aggregate goals, and the defense was particularly poor in a 6-1 road defeat.

Schmid replaced Parke with Ianni after the CCL, saying the move was mostly about getting fresh legs on the field for the start of the MLS season. But the backline stayed the same in Friday's 2-0 win against Houston, which happened to be Parke's 30th birthday.

Days later, Parke was still not in the mood for celebration.

"It's frustrating, but the only thing I can do is go out and play and push for the spot," he said.

Clark suspended for gay slur

MLS has suspended Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark three games for directing a gay slur toward a ball boy in Friday night's 2-0 loss to Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.

Clark, 27, was also fined an undisclosed amount and must attend diversity and sensitivity training.

"Major League Soccer will not tolerate this type of behavior from its players or staff at any time, under any circumstances," said commissioner Don Garber in a news release.

Clark has apologized to the ball boy and said in a statement that he accepts the punishment. He is believed to be the first American professional athlete to be suspended by his league for anti-gay behavior since former MLB pitcher John Rocker in 1998, according to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

NOTES

• Visiting fans from Vancouver and Portland will be allocated 1,500 tickets for rivalry games at CenturyLink Field, according to Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer. The entire stadium will be open for visits from the Whitecaps (Aug. 18) and Timbers (Oct. 7). Seattle's traveling fans get 800 tickets for rivalry games this season, but the total allocation is close to even since the Sounders play twice at both Vancouver and Portland.

• As a result of an embarrassing 7-0 loss to Manchester United last year, Hanauer said the team has discussed changing its strategy to be more competitive for its July 18 friendly against Chelsea FC.

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