CHESTER, Pa. -- Following the Philadelphia Union’s 5-2 victory over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night, the players were naturally giddy.
On top of advancing to the semifinal round against Sporting Kansas City on July 11, they were also greeting the newest member of the team, signed earlier in the day – central defender Bakary Soumare.
The 2008 MLS Defender of the Year finalist made his way through the locker room to chat with his new teammates.
“I think he had a tremendous career in MLS before he went overseas,” said midfielder Brian Carroll. “He continued his craft and his trade over there and he’s gotten better and better. I expect nothing but good things and big things from him. He will help us so much going forward.”
Soumare isn’t expected to play Saturday at Houston or July 4 at the LA Galaxy as he continues to recover from knee surgery three months ago.
Soumare says he's fully healthy but is still in the process of returning to full fitness. With over 20 league contests remaining, there’s still plenty of time left to contribute this season.
“I think not only is he a key quality player, but he’s a great guy as well,” Carroll said. “He’s great in the locker room both professionally and personally. That’s what we’re looking for in this club – good character guys who work hard and who are good quality players.”
Midfielder Freddy Adu is certainly familiar with Soumare.
When word spread that the Union added the 6-foot-4 defender, Adu was ecstatic.
“It’s a great move by our club,” Adu said. “He’s a guy who can make an immediate difference. He’s gotten better every year and he’ll continue to solidify the backline. I’m so happy that we added a piece like this. It’s going to help us so much.”
Rookie forward Antoine Hoppenot has seen a lot of change in his initial season in the league. This latest addition is a change he’s anxiously anticipating.
“Anytime you add a quality player, it’s going to help,” Hoppenot said. “I’m excited and I’ve heard all great things about him. I’m sure it’ll be a great addition to our club.”
Carroll has played against Soumare on a number of occasions through the years, and he knows as well as any player what to expect the rest of the season.
“I remember him getting better and better each year in the league,” Carroll said. “He was vying for defensive player of the year and the Best XI before he went overseas. He’s still a great player who can do so many great things for us.”
WATCH: Soumare MLS highlights