Bakary Soumare rose quickly in Major League Soccer’s ranks of elite defenders. The second overall draft pick in 2007 didn’t need long to established himself as a starter along the Chicago Fire back line. In 2008 he was a deserving MLS Defender of the Year candidate, alongside the more known commodities of Jimmy Conrad and Chad Marshall.
Soumare, born in Mali but raised in Paris and New York, didn’t last long before using those fast-gained chops for a move abroad. His 2009 move to France’s Boulogne was for a reported $2 million, an MLS record transfer fee at the time for a defender.
But Boulogne was soon relegated, Soumare later became injured and then lost favor, was eventually loaned to German second division club Karlsruher SC and – well, let’s just say it looks like a cautionary tale of how a good talent can drop into relative obscurity if these missions abroad go askew.
The move immediately fortifies a formerly troubled Philadelphia Union back line. Carlos Valdes, who looked strong in last week’s 4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, now has a strong partner. Sheanon Williams, who had been asked to move into the middle temporarily under former coach Peter Nowak, can now refocus comfortably on the right back spot at which he excels.
If young goalkeeper Zac MacMath can hold form, the Union defense suddenly looks fairly robust, especially with Brian Carroll reliably screening from midfield.
The Union is way back in the standings, but the PPL Park side has always played fewer matches than most Eastern Conference rivals. Soumare’s addition could, in fact, make things pretty interesting in Philadelphia over the season’s back half.