SOUMARE: "I'll be ready to play" on Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake
CHICAGO, Ill. -- Playing against a team you started your career with two weeks in a row and then joining them?
That’s the case for Bakary Soumare, who was reacquired by the Chicago Fire Thursday night after going 90 minutes against his former side in the Philadelphia Union’s matching 1-0 wins on May 11 and May 18.
“It’s weird and only in this league will you see that,” the veteran defender told reporters Thursday night. “To turn around and play alongside the guys you’ve been fighting against twice in a row, it’s weird.
RELEASE: Fire re-acquire Bakary Soumare
Luckily, Chicago became a second home for Soumare after being drafted second overall by the Fire in 2007.
The 6-4 center back went on to be a dominant force on the back line, earned MLS Best XI honors in his second season and an All-Star selection in 2009, racking up 73 competitive appearances before departing the club for newly promoted Ligue 1 side U.S. Boulogne.
“It’s not like I’m coming into an environment that’s unknown to me. I know a lot of guys in this locker room, I’m familiar with Frank [Klopas] and a lot of guys are ones that I’ve worked out with throughout the entire offseason.”
Soumare returns to a locker room that still features 2009 teammates Logan Pause, Gonzalo Segares, Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe.
After two-and-a-half years in France, Soumare went on loan to German side Karlsruher before returning to MLS with the Philadelphia Union last summer.
Despite looking like a long-term center back solution for the Union, Soumare played just one game for Philadelphia, ironically enough, against the Fire in 2012.
After returning to preseason in decent health, the Malian international was surprised to not be in the starting center back tandem for the club and soon after requested a trade.
Soumare’s request took a while to decide and when starting Philadelphia center back Jeff Parke went down injured, the former Fire man found himself in the ironic position of starting three games for the Union, two of which came against the Men in Red the past two weeks.
The Union’s injury woes served to help Soumare’s fitness and so should he be called upon to start in Saturday’s match away to Real Salt Lake, he says he’s good to go.
“If Frank picks me on Saturday, I’ll be ready to play. The good thing is I’ve had a strong three games together and I’ve actually started feeling better game after game. I’ve started getting my rhythm back and right now I’m close to top form.”
Should Soumare get the start on Saturday, it would likely mean Jalil Anibaba, who has featured mainly at center back this season, would slide to the right side on the Fire back line.
Beyond that, Soumare's presence should begin to help shore up an oft-injured Fire defensive corps as they begin U.S. Open Cup play next week.
"[Bakary]'s addition to our roster will help us challenge both in MLS and for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup," said Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon. "We know that Bakary considers Chicago to be his home and we’re happy to welcome him back to the Fire family.”