MONTREAL – Six months into his Montreal Impact stay, Bakary Soumare wants a change of scenery.
As first reported by RDS, Soumare and the club are looking to part ways, all parties confirmed to the Montreal media on Wednesday. Soumare had joined the Impact on Jan. 6, 2015, two-and-a-half weeks after the club selected him in the 2014 MLS Re-Entry Draft. The marriage appeared to be a happy one.
But though it didn’t turn into “a war,” to use Soumare’s words, the happiness crumbled. Soumare met with the Impact front office on Monday morning. Displeased with his playing time, he expressed his wish to play elsewhere. The club will not block a move; Impact technical director Adam Braz said that his phone was “open 24/7” for offers.
“I want to play,” Soumare told reporters. “I don’t know how long I’ll keep playing. … I don’t know yet. I want to play. It’s true that it’s been a little bit up and down in terms of performance on my part, I understand that. If there comes a time when I think I'm not really needed anymore or I’m not part of the club’s plans anymore, it’s best to go elsewhere.”
Soumare has played 16 of Montreal’s 24 games in all competitions, including all six CONCACAF Champions League games. The last eight league games, however, have been a struggle for playing time.
After a poor outing in a 3-0 loss at the Chicago Fire on May 30, Soumare won two starts, on June 20 and 24, and a substitute appearance last weekend after center back Victor Cabrera came off with a knock. Three weeks on the sideline, Soumare said, brought a loss of game rhythm, hampering his ensuing performances.
The club, on the other hand, felt that Soumare has gotten his fair share of playing time.
“At the end of the day, Baky, when you look at the amount of games that he played, he started a majority of them, 16,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “There’s going to be changes on the team. It’s just normal. That’s why we call it a team, whether it’s form, whether you need to freshen up the squad, how guys train. For me, I haven’t had an issue with Baky, but I think this is just a part of any team, throughout a season, that you have to go through and you have to manage, as long as it doesn’t affect what we’re doing on the field with the team.”
Added Braz: “He’s played a lot. He’s helped the team in those games, especially in Champions League. But in the end, when a player’s not happy and he doesn’t want to be here, that’s something else. We absolutely want that the players that are here want to be here and fight for the team, to try to win.”
Braz’s words rubbed the otherwise calm and collected Soumare the wrong way. "Adam can say whatever he wants,” Soumare responded -- and he lamented that no one at the front office level was upfront with him on his performance, though he heard such rumblings through the grapevine.
However, he bears no ill-feeling towards a man he considers a friend and mentor, Frank Klopas.
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“He’s someone I know well,” Soumare said. “We’re very good friends. Does he need to provide an explanation? In football, the coach doesn’t have to explain his choices.”
Klopas, who previously crossed paths with Soumare at the Chicago Fire, admitted to being surprised by the player’s request. But he recognized that all he could do was “sit down and address it.”
“I try to make the best decision for the team, always, regardless of who it is,” Klopas said. “If my wife deserves to sit out that weekend, she’s going to sit out. I have to be fair to the whole team. The guy’s played some very good games for us.
“I know the player,” Klopas continued. “I have a relationship with him. But on the field, it’s all about business. He knows that.”