CHESTER, Pa. – Last week at this time, Bakary Soumaré had not played a single minute for the Philadelphia Union in 2013.
Now, with Jeff Parke still recovering from a hamstring injury, Soumaré has a chance to start his third game in eight days as the Union welcome the Chicago Fire to PPL Park on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; watch on MLS Live).
“If the team needs me, I’ll be ready,” Soumaré said following Philly’s 4-1 loss to the LA Galaxy on Wednesday. “Obviously coming off a bad result at home, we’re going to change some things and maybe bring in some fresher legs. Whatever the case may be, if I’m called upon, I’ll be ready. And if not, I’ll be ready for the next one.”
Soumaré’s sharp increase in minutes has been an intriguing storyline for the Union, who agreed to try to trade him early in the season after the 6-foot-4 former MLS Defender of the Year finalist expressed discontent about a lack of playing time.
But the club has yet to find a suitable trade option for him, which probably worked to their advantage when Parke went down two weeks ago and they needed a replacement center back.
Even if Parke is able to return to the lineup this week, Soumaré will still likely serve an important role as one of the only true defenders on the bench, especially following Tuesday’s trade of left back/midfielder Gabriel Farfan.
When asked if the Farfan trade might affect his own trade request, Soumaré shook his head and smiled.
“I don’t know, that’s a good question,” he said. “It’s a different trade. We play different positions. Maybe in the short term because we have injuries. But in the long term, we’re still going to try to make something happen hopefully. If not, I’ll be here. I’ll be here until something happens.”
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While happy to be back on the field, Soumaré admitted he felt rusty over the past two games and that it’s “still going to take a while to get my rhythm back.” Another challenge he expects is playing the same Chicago Fire team twice in one week.
Last Saturday, Soumaré helped the Union leave Chicago with a 1-0 shutout win over the Fire, his former team. He knows they’ll want revenge.
“We stole points from them,” Soumaré said. “And they’re going to try to come here and steal points from us. I know their coach very well. He’s not going to come here to bunker. He’s going to come here to take the three points that we just took away from them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.