CHESTER, Pa. – When Bakary Soumare asked for a trade very early in the season and the Philadelphia Union said they'd grant that request, it looked like the marriage between the player and club would come to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
Not so fast.
With center back Jeff Parke (left hamstring strain) likely out and right back Sheanon Williams (one-game suspension) definitely out for Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park (1:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com), Soumaré is in line to make his season debut – nearly two months after his trade request went public.
In another interesting twist to the already intriguing story, his likely start will come against the team he played for from 2007-09 and in the city he calls home.
“It could have been 18 other teams,” Soumaré told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “This is so ironic. But I love it. It’s great. It’s part of the sport where things can happen and it works out. I love Chicago. It’s my home. It’s a club I played for and had a lot of success. I have very close friends on that team. It’s going to be fun more than anything. I’m just looking forward to being back on the field and having fun. I really miss playing.”
Soumaré, who’s played just one game since signing with the Union last June – also against the Fire – downplayed the idea that Saturday’s contest could be something of an audition that could convince the Union he should be a full-time starter.
The high-priced defender seems firm in wanting to go somewhere where he can play on a regular basis – and is happy with how the Union have tried to accommodate that request. He even said that Philly made a “big effort” to trade him to Chicago but that it didn’t work out. As to whether it will ever work out, he said that he “wouldn’t hold my breath” but that there are plenty of other options out there.
“People think I want to go to Chicago,” Soumaré said. “I just want to play. That’s all I want. There will be a day where I’m retired and I’ll be in Chicago for the rest of my life. I don’t have to go there now. I’m at the point where I just want to play.”
With that in mind, he’s definitely excited to get back on the field this weekend. And the Union – who’ve maintained a good working relationship with Soumaré even amidst all of the trade buzz – are glad they can call upon such an experienced player in a pinch.
“I think we’re pretty fortunate to have Baky here and in good form,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “He has trained hard ever single day he’s been here. We don’t have a question on his fitness or anything like that. It will be an adjustment because he hasn’t played game minutes but we have pretty strenuous training sessions and he’s working awful hard on his own as well.”
If, as expected, Soumaré does get the start at center back Saturday, will anything change in regards to trying to trade him?
“It changes a little bit because we’re certainly not going to trade him now that we need him,” Hackworth said. “Baky has an opportunity with us and I hope he makes the most of it. It certainly puts any talk of him being traded on the backburner for the foreseeable future. And you never know what’s going to happen out of that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.