Soumare "available for selection"

Midseason acquisition could see first minutes with Union

Baky Training

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

It looks as if Bakary Soumare is on target to make his debut with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

The 6-foot-4 centerback, who signed with the Union on June 26, appears to be fully recovered from knee surgery.

When the Union travel to face the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo, they could feature Soumare for the first time.

“Baky is ready, so I’m hopeful that makes my job, and my coaching staff’s job, hard for Saturday,” Union interim manager John Hackworth said. “I think that’s a great thing for us no matter what. He’s looked really good. I told you guys last week that I thought he turned a corner. Having him available for selection is huge for us.”

Hackworth said that there’s a chance Soumare could start against the Impact. Then again, he might not.

In any case, it presents the technical staff with a difficult decision considering how well Carlos Valdes and Amobi Okugo have performed recently.

“I try to express upon the players that it’s up to them and how they train every single day, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Hackworth said. “At the same time, you look at our two centerbacks, Carlos has been fantastic, All-Star-caliber the whole time and Amobi has been arguably as good as anybody in the league. And we’ll make sure we’re very careful about the dynamic. When we make a change, it’ll be for the right reasons.”

Soumare’s addition to the Union has been all positive and his teammates are enthused by what lies ahead.

“Baki is very impressive and very skilled,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “He’s been a great teammate on and off the field and we’re lucky to have him. This gives us more depth and that’s important in a long season. I know I’m excited to see what he can do. His skill-set is impressive all the way around and he’s going to help us in so many ways.”

A 2008 MLS Defender of the Year finalist, Soumare excelled as a central defender for the Chicago Fire in ‘08 and ‘09. He played in 63 games for the Fire, earning the club’s Defender of the Year title in ‘08, a spot in the MLS Best XI and helped the squad to the Western Conference Finals. In ‘09, he was named to the MLS All-Star team, replacing Brian Ching.

“I think anytime you can add a quality player, it’s going to help,” said Valdes. “I’ve seen Baki play and he’s really, really good. It’s a great addition for our club.”