(Author’s note: This post has been updated to add quotes from Bakary Soumare.)
Photo: Earl Gardner
Bakary Soumare looks set to start Saturday against Chicago, potentially his first appearance in a regular season game all year.
Center back Jeff Parke will sit out the Chicago game after leaving last weekend’s match against Seattle with a hamstring injury, Union manager John Hackworth said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. Right back Sheanon Williams, who moved to center back after Parke left the Seattle game, will miss the match due to suspension after receiving a red card later in the match.
Hackworth stopped just short of definitively confirming Soumare would start, but everything he said, including noting Soumare’s good form and hard work in practice, indicated Soumare would see the field against his former team unless something goes very awry.
“Now Baky has that opportunity with us, and we hope he makes the most of it,” Hackworth said. “It certainly puts any talk of him being traded on the back burner for the foreseeable future. And you never know what’s going to happen out of that.”
Soumare, the Union’s second highest paid player, requested a trade earlier this year after he was left out of the opening day starting lineup. Since the former all-star center back joined the Union last June, he has played just one regular season game — against Chicago, ironically, much as he will Saturday. The two clubs have engaged in trade talks but been unable to strike a deal.
For his part, Soumare was circumspect about the opportunity.
“At the end of the day, lets all be honest with each other: I’m just filling in because we are missing a bunch of guys,” Soumare told PSP via email. “I have really missed playing so its going to be really good to be back on the field playing a competitive game with the guys, and more exciting that I get to do so at home (Chicago is my home) against my former team and several former teammates and a coach I’m very close to. Does it put a trade in the back burner, that’s a huge question mark. At this point I just want to enjoy doing something I have not been able to do in months which is play in a real game.”
The Mali international joined the Union with a preexisting knee injury and setbacks in his recovery forced him to miss nearly all of last season. He first began talks with the Union when Peter Nowak was still the club’s manager, but Nowak was fired two weeks before Soumare’s signing was announced. Soumare went into training camp expecting to win a starting job, but Hackworth chose to start Amobi Okugo next to Parke at center back rather than defensive midfield. Soumare proved the odd man out and requested a trade after the match.
The match will serve as a unique opportunity for Soumare to put himself in the shop window before potential suitors, provided he starts Saturday ahead of Chris Albright, his probable competition for the role. Chicago is a logical trade destination for Soumare, given their need for a replacement for injured center back Arne Friedrich, Soumare’s excellent past performance with the club, and the fact that he maintains a home in Chicago. He has said he will join any team that gives him a chance to start, and there may be other suitors.
Soumare said previously that he was not inclined to remain with Philadelphia. On Wednesday, he sounded more open-minded and interested in focusing on Saturday’s game, and he praised Union management for trying to accommodate his trade request.
“It’s really hard to go and just say ‘I still want to get traded’ a few days before the game,” Soumare said via email. “There has been a lot of talks about me surrounding this game for reasons that we all know, but I don’t want this game to be about me. I’m very exciting about it and I really want/need to enjoy this game and help the team get the points. We will reassess my situation as a whole in 10 days or so. This is a great opportunity for me at many level[s].”