Union fill defensive need with Soumare
CHESTER, Pa. -- Made official on Tuesday, the acquisition of big, athletic and experienced Bakary Soumare fills the Union’s glaring defensive need in almost impeccable fashion.
For 26-year-old Soumare, signing with the Union was equally as perfect.
“Right away, I knew it was where I wanted to be,’ said 6-foot-4 central defender Soumare at PPL Park prior to the Union’s game versus the Harrisburg City Islanders in US Open Cup play. “As everyone knows, I have a relationship with [Union Sporting Director] Diego [Gutierrez], the fact that we've been friends for a long time. The whole project, the vision of the club, it felt great. Even though I live in Chicago, I'm an East Coast guy. I'm just excited to be back.”
Understanding his role as glue that holds the back line of Ray Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Gabe Farfan and Carlos Valdes together, Soumare, who played for the Chicago Fire for two seasons before leaving for France and Germany, is ready to apply his on-field talents and off-field leadership.
“The back line has been pretty good the last three games,” Soumare said of the Union. “The game before last, against DC [United], they were good. And last game [4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City], they had a clean sheet. I would say it's a work in progress. I want to bring athleticism. I bring some experience that probably is not there as much as they'd like. We talked more than about leadership. That's what I'm trying to bring over here. I know a few guys in the locker room, so the transition won't be super difficult. It'll be OK. I can bring it on the field, I can bring it in the locker room.”
Soumare is coming off a meniscus injury but should be healthy following the Union’s visit to Houston Dynamo on Saturday. As for being in game shape, that remains to be seen.
“I had surgery about three months ago. It was about three months recovery, so this is perfect timing,” said Soumare. “I want to join the team very soon. I just have to work on my fitness a little bit. As far as injury, I'm fully recovered. I think it will be a matter of time before I can be back on the field and be fully fit. I'll take a couple weeks to work on my fitness.”
To fill the void left by Danny Califf, who was traded to Chivas USA, the Union needed an athletic and tall central defender to fill the void. But if the front office weren’t completely sold on Soumare, Gutierrez eased the signing with his personal quality guarantee.
“[Bakary’s] a guy I know extremely well,” said Gutierrez, who played with Soumare in Chicago from 2007-08. “I got the opportunity to share a locker room, share the field with him and battle with him side by side. I know that he’s a guy that’s extremely responsible and holds himself accountable to everything. He takes his profession very seriously. When he got word that he might become available, this is a player I highly recommended to our staff and our club. He’s someone that’s definitely going to represent the Union to the best of his ability.”
And if what Gutierrez says is true, that’s a good thing for the Union, who have Soumare for the long term.
“Every year you can tell there's a vision to make things better,” said Soumare of the Union, whose contract has not been released by MLS. “Last week when I was here, you can tell these guys are striving to do really, really big things. It's a project. I'm not here for six months or for a year. I'm here for a long-term deal and I want to help this club achieve their goals as far as on the field and what they're trying to accomplish in the city.”E-mail Ryan Bright at firstname.lastname@example.org