To recap for any Fire fans that may have missed it yesterday, a bit of bittersweet news broke. Former Fire defender and fan favorite Bakary Soumare is coming back to MLS. Unfortunately, it won't be with the Fire. The Philadelphia Union gave up an undisclosed amount of cash to Vancouver to move to the top of the allocation list and sign Soumare to a multi-year contract. The arcane MLS allocation system means the Fire would have had to strike a deal with Vancouver to move to the top of the allocation order and snag Soumare themselves. Instead, the Union will be getting a proven defender that should instantly fortify and make their backline stronger. Soumare certainly did a very good job in Chicago and I expect nothing less of him in Philly.
Scott Kessler over at Brotherly Game emailed and asked us for a little insight about Soumare. HTIOT writer Nick Fedora came up with a nice write up that I would like to share with everyone here at HTIOT. It's a good insight into Soumare for those that may not be familiar with the former Fire defender. Also, hat tip to Rudy Gomez for input into his interactions with Bakary in his time with the Fire. Follow me after the break for Nick's take on Bakary Soumare...
"Bakary Soumare is a massive centerback measuring 6'4" and weighing close to 200 pounds. His sheer physicality is something to build a defense around, but he provides much more than that with quick steady feet and a good eye for distribution. In Chicago, Soumare was paired primarily with Wilman Conde or CJ Brown and more than held his own alongside his partners. In 2008, he received a nomination for MLS Defender of the Year, but narrowly missed out to Chad Marshall.
After a locker room bust up with then Fire head coach Denis Hamlett, Soumare was sold to Boulogne for a reported $2 million, the highest transfer fee for a defender from MLS at the time. While never scoring for Chicago, Soumare scored twice in 67 appearances for the French club but couldn't prevent relegation in the 2009-2010 season.
Soumare claimed he would play for the United States if given the chance to represent the Red, White, and Blue, but a complication in gaining American citizen status led him to play for Mali where he has already made 13 appearances in World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Cup of Nations.
Off the field, Bakary is a charismatic man who acts like he's just one of the guys. My Hot Time In Old Town colleague Rudy Gomez told me he would come out to Section 8 Chicago pick up games, bang the drum, and cheer for his fans. A group of fans would regularly call Baky when going out and invite him along and he would join when he had the chance. After his transfer to Boulogne was finalized, he went to the tailgate before the next Fire game to say goodbye to everyone. He is approachable and friendly and will instantly become a fan favorite.
Bakary recently came up in a conversation amongst friends when discussing former Fire defenders possibly coming back to MLS and who would be the better signing between Bakary Soumare and Carlos Bocanegra. The decision was clear that we would take Soumare back in a split second as he already has MLS, European, and International experience at the age of 26 and the body of a tank.
Without a lot of knowledge of the current Union defensive situation, I would say Soumare would pair well with either a smaller, quicker centerback to compliment his size or another hulking figure to overload on physical destruction and intimidation like his pairing with Conde. When a teammate goes down, he will be there to back them up like a snarling Doberman. Soumare will never back down from a 50/50 challenge, a header, a tackle, or an opponent. After all of the baffling player movement this season, Philadelphia Union fans can rest assured that this is an absolutely fantastic signing that will benefit the club for many years to come."