Bakary Soumare is finally on his out of Philadelphia, and he’s headed right back where he started his MLS career.
The Chicago Fire announced Thursday that they have acquired the former Best XI center back via trade with the Philadelphia Union, a move reuniting him with the club that gave him his professional break in 2007. Soumare is available to play with the Fire when they host Real Salt lake on Saturday.
"We’re excited to have Bakary rejoin the Chicago Fire,” president of soccer operations Javier Leon said in a statement. “Bakary is a strong, dependable defender with experience in MLS and abroad. His addition to our roster will help us challenge both in MLS and for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. We know that Bakary considers Chicago to be his home and we’re happy to welcome him back to the Fire family.”
The Union will receive the Fire’s natural second round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money in the deal.
Soumare, 27, spent two-and-a-half seasons in Chicago and was an MLS Best XI selection and a Defender of the Year nominee in 2008. He was transferred to French side Bolougne midway through the 2009 season, however, after a falling out with then-head coach Denis Hamlett.
Soumare spent three years in Europe with Boulogne and German side Karlsruher SC before he made his return to MLS in June 2012, when the Union traded up in the MLS allocation order to gain the right to make a deal.
He’s appeared in only four matches since then – including two against the Fire in recent weeks, both shutouts – and he openly requested a trade earlier this season as he fell behind in the team’s pecking order at center back. He recently worked his way to into the lineup because of the injury to veteran Jeff Parke.
“We are thankful for Bakary’s contributions to the Union and wish him the best of luck as he continues his career,” Union head coach John Hackworth said in a statement.
The Fire, meanwhile, have struggled mightily on defense without the presence of injured veteran Arne Friedrich, who has battled a nagging hamstring issue since the preseason and has yet to appear in a match this season. Soumare will likely assume a starting role in the Fire’s defense along side reigning Rookie of the Year Austin Berry, pushing youngster Jalil Anibaba to a spot on the right side of the back line.
Soumare told MLSsoccer.com in February 2012 that he still calls Chicago home and has remained in contact with a number of the players from his first stint with the Fire.
“What I loved about the Fire, it was a big family,” he said in 2012. “The front office, the team, the fans – they made it feel like I was a new member of the family. Everyone was pulling in the same direction.
“The Fire is the club of my heart,” he added. “That’s where, as a soccer player and as a person, I had the best time of my life.”