Soumare focused on road ahead

Defender feeling strong after testing games

One down, many more to go.

Bakary Soumare made his much-anticipated debut for the Philadelphia Union in last Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire. Now that those 90 minutes are complete, he’s looking ahead to Sunday’s battle at D.C. United.

It was a respectable start for the 6-foot-4 centerback. He also knows it was just that – a start.

Soumare is stoked about his future with the Union.

“I felt a little bit rusty, but I was very pleased to play 90 minutes,” Soumare said. “I felt like things went fairly well, but I know there’s plenty of room for improvement. There’s nothing like game experience. This is a starting point and I’m looking forward to training all week and getting ready for the next one.”

Soumare signed on June 26 and continued recovering from knee surgery. He played a full 90 minutes in a Reserve League match at Montreal and followed that up with another full 90 minutes against the Fire.

Continuing to work on his match fitness will be a major key from here on out.

“I think I’ll feel better every day,” Soumare said. “I was pleased with how my knees felt. I’m a little sore, but not too bad. I know it’s going to get better as I get more and more time in matches.”

Union interim manager John Hackworth echoed similar thoughts.

“I was really proud of Baky because that’s the first time he’s played in a long time,” 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.”

Soumare’s teammates were thrilled to see him suit up in a Philadelphia uniform. They believe that the future is extremely bright with Soumare on the backline.

“I thought he did a very, very good job,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “He’s very skilled and smart and he’s going to improve with fitness with every day in training and in the games. He’s done it in the past and we know he will do it in the future. I think every one of us was very excited when we heard Baky was signing here.”

Next up is a rivalry match with D.C. United. Whether Soumare plays another 90 minutes remains to be seen.

He’s just thrilled to be healthy and available if called upon.

“I am ready to go,” Soumare said. “This is a great organization and I wanted to do everything I can to help out. Hopefully, I’ll be out there. I’m going to work extremely hard all week to prepare.”