For the Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire, the third time turned out to be the charm.
Shortly after completing a trade that sent center back Bakary Soumaré to the Chicago Fire for a 2014 MLS SuperDraft second-round pick and allocation money, Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth revealed the deal was a long time in the making.
“It’s been a strange process because it seemed like once a month they would come asking,” the Union manager told MLSsoccer.com. “And the previous two times we were not able to get anything done.”
Hackworth noted the Fire first expressed interest in making a deal in early March – at “the exact same time” that Soumaré requested a trade because Amobi Okugo had beaten him out for a starting spot.
Since then, it took a lot of back-and-forth negotiations for the Union and the Fire to come to terms, with a third team even jumping into the talks at one point. In the end, Hackworth admitted he wasn’t entirely happy with what they got back in return but said the move will very much help the team’s future finances.
“We had a level of expectations of what we were looking for,” Hackworth said. “In the end, I think we accomplished that goal.”
Soumaré’s tenure in Philadelphia certainly did not go as planned. Under the watch of former manager Peter Nowak and former sporting director Diego Gutierrez, the Union made a big play for the former MLS Defender of the Year finalist, trading a first-round draft pick to acquire his rights last June before signing him to a hefty deal through the 2014 season.
But a knee injury kept him out of commission for all but one game last year. And Hackworth – who as an assistant coach didn’t play a role in the original negotiations to bring in Soumaré – decided that Okugo and Jeff Parke was a better center back pairing this season.
Because of a hamstring injury to Parke, Soumaré ended up playing the last three games, helping the Union earn two shutouts against the Fire, his first professional team. But that didn’t change Soumaré’s trade request and, if anything, probably helped the Union convince Chicago he was healthy.
“I think his stock certainly rose a little bit,” Hackworth said. “The question I was always asked was: Is he healthy? Is his knee recovered? Baky started for us in three games in the preseason and two of those games were broadcast live on the web. If anybody wanted to see if Baky was healthy, they could have looked back to February. But these games in particular with Chicago were absolutely showcases. He not only showed he was healthy but a quality center back.”
While the Union will pay a portion of Soumaré’s salary over the next two seasons, Hackworth said they will pick up only “a small amount” in 2014, which will offer the club some much-needed salary cap relief.
Hackworth called that the “biggest part” of the deal. And it should allow the club to pursue another defender in the wake of the trades that sent away both Gabriel Farfan and Soumaré.
“We have cap space and roster spots where we can go out and try to find a player to dial in those things,” Hackworth said. “We’re good right now. But for coaches and organizations in MLS, this summer transfer window internationally and even on the domestic front is a big time to make a move. So I think we’re at least positioned if the right player in that situation comes along, we’ll be able to make a move.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
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