Union's Soumare debuts against former club
CHESTER, Pa. -- Although it was a sour Union debut for Bakary Soumare, simply getting on the field was a small victory.
The 26-year-old defender signed with the Union on June 26 but was held out because of a knee injury and the strong play of midfield convert, Amobi Okugo. Soumare made his first start with the Union on Sunday night.
“It was good being out there and playing 90 minutes,” he said. “I was a little rusty, obviously. I’m glad I got to play, it felt good. No pain in my knees and I’m happy about that. Fitness-wise, it was OK. A little cramping at the end, but, for the most part, pretty good.”
With Union captain and central defender Carlos Valdes out because of international duty, the roster window opened for 6-foot-4 Soumare to enter the starting 11 and make an impact. Though the team was smashed by Chris Rolfe and the Chicago Fire, 3-1, at PPL Park (see story)
, Soumare got better as the contest progressed and was key in blocking multiple shots, particularly in the second half.
Soumare’s only gaffe came in the 43rd minute, when he was beat on the right side of the box by Sherjill MacDonald, who was able to center a clean ball that was pounded home by Rolfe. Other than that, it was a good night for the big man.
“I was really proud of Baky, because that’s the first time he’s played in a long time,” Union coach John Hackworth said. “There is no substitution for getting game rhythm. I haven’t talked to him yet, but he’s a good enough pro that he knows he can improve and he will, I’m absolutely certain of that. The best part is that Baky was out there and had some good moments.”
Fellow defender Sheanon Williams was also happy to see Soumare get in the game and change the dynamic with his size.
“Baky is a big boy. I usually call him 'The Moose' in our locker room,” Williams said. “He’s going to be a big part of our team going forward. I know Amobi is itching to get back to center midfield, but it’s good for Baky to get into a real game. He hasn’t played in awhile and he did well, especially in the end when they bombarded us with their attack. He was one-on-one most of the second half and did really well.”
“I thought he did really well coming in, especially off a knee injury,” he said. “People come back for their first game they're usually kind of nervous. He wasn’t nervous at all. You could see that with his aggressiveness. I thought we meshed well. We had a long time to prepare. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way and we lost the game.”
A former member of and 2008 MLS Defender of the Year nominee with the Fire, Soumare was excited to get his legs back in a meaningful contest. But he would have liked it even more had it come with three points against his former club.
“Anytime you lose, it’s never a good feeling,” Soumare said. “We’re not happy about the performance, we’ve been working hard all week on trying to contain Chicago. We knew their strengths and weaknesses, did a good job scouting them. We just didn’t execute the way we should have.”E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com