BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Not many people winter in Chicago. The cold breezes and snow that blows in off of Lake Michigan make the Windy City an undesirable place to spend the chilly months.
But for Bakary Soumaré, Chicago is home. So whenever the Fire defender had time to return to his Bucktown residence during his four years with other clubs, he'd hop on a plane to Chicago, even if that meant gutting out frigid temperatures.
“I knew eventually this was going to be home after soccer,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “So I established my home here. Whether I was going to come back [to the Fire] or not, I always kept a home here.”
His time in Chicago gave him the opportunity to train with several Fire players, some of which he played with during his first stint with the club.
Soumaré returned to Chicago full-time last week, when the Fire traded a second-round draft pick and allocation money for the Mali international to fill the gap left by injured center back Arne Friedrich. He saw plenty of new faces when he entered the locker room, but moving into the city meant little more than packing a few boxes and returning home.
He made his re-debut last Saturday and played in Wednesday's 2-0 US Open Cup win over the Charlotte Eagles. While there were certainly a few errors in communication and some rocky patches that should smooth out over time, Soumaré sees the transition as relatively seamless.
“It's a team that I've followed closely because I have a bunch of friends on it, so I've watched every single game,” he said. “Obviously it's a new group, and you get used to the tendencies, and the guys, especially the offensive player, their runs, especially the offensive guys. But [Chris Rolfe], I've played with before, Patrick [Nyarko], I've played with.”
Friedrich may or may not come back – the German is taking what could be his last stab at a return by traveling to his home country to receive treatment on his ailing hip.
But the 34-year-old's career probably won't extend beyond 2013, so Soumaré is here for the long haul. Four years after leaving to explore a life abroad, he is happy to be back, even though he never completely left.
“It makes it that much easier to do a job when you live a city where, that's home,” Soumaré said. “Playing for the Fire, it's a big family … I know Frank [Klopas, head coach] very well, Javier [Leon, president of soccer operations] and [owner] Andrew Hauptman, I know them very well, so those are guys that have always stayed in touch, even when I went to Europe.
"Andrew and Javier, those are guys, when it was holidays, always shot me e-mails to make sure everything was going well. It's really like a big family here.”