Chicago Fire defender Bakary Soumare admitted that his 100th MLS appearance for the club in Saturday’s match vs. Philadelphia was a special milestone.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” he told Chicago-Fire.com on Tuesday. “Chicago is my home and will be long after I’m done playing. I love this club more than any I’ve played for -- this is where I’ve started and enjoyed most of my success as a player. I’m thankful [Fire Owner] Andrew [Hauptman] gave me the opportunity to come back.”
The moment was bittersweet however.
While Soumare and his backline mates put in another strong effort, they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw when a controversial hand ball was whistled against Gonzalo Segares in the 89th minute.
“It was a tough one to take but you can’t dwell on these situations when you have a game a few days later. You turn the page. The Philly game is behind us and we focus on the task at hand [Wednesday] against San Jose.”
Over the last two league games, the Fire defense has shown marked improvement, conceding only that stoppage time penalty kick to Philadelphia. Soumare, along with center back partner Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and full backs Segares and Lovel Palmer have all receive high individual marks for their performances.
“We came to a point realizing that we’re leaking too many goals,” Soumare said. “Part of the team being successful is us on the backline doing better. Everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s started working together. Lovel has been as good as I’ve seen him play. Jhonny is doing great, having Gonzalo back from injury has been a huge boost.
“Consistency has been key. We have a lot of experience back there and it feels better as a unit now that we’re all healthy. We’ve worked on some tactical stuff at training and that’s been really helpful as well.”
(Bakary Soumare played his 100th MLS match for the Chicago Fire on Saturday / Mike Dinovo USA Today)
The tactical side has been important but Fire head coach Frank Yallop also pointed this week to what it means to have the same group playing in the back.
“It’s been hard getting that group of four on the field together all the time this season,” he told Chicago-Fire.com. “Gonzo had an ankle injury that kept him out a while. There have been other smaller injuries here and there and a few suspensions that have made us shuffle around.
“The stability with all four of them hitting on the same note has been key. But for that penalty, we’d be taking about two straight clean sheets.”
The Fire backline will have a tough test in their visit to San Jose Wednesday as they deal with the attacking combination of U.S. World Cup returnee Chris Wondolowski and his henchman Steven Lenhart.
“It’s a lethal combination,” Soumare said. “[Steven] is very athletic and Wondo is as good as it gets in terms of clinical finishing around the box. They can score at anytime, it’s a good combination of attacking power and we have to be careful for them.”
And just as Soumare is coming off a match against his former team, the Philadelphia Union, he understands what Wednesday’s game will mean for Yallop, who spent eight and a half seasons in charge of the Earthquakes.
“I know it as a player. It’s very interesting when you go up against a team you’ve played for. People always try to downplay it but you always have that little extra incentive.
“Frank is obviously not making it personal and he’s not approaching the game any differently, but as a player that’s been in this situation, this type of game is huge. We’re going to go out, fight and play hard. If we get out of here with a win, it’s fantastic for the team and icing on the cake for Frank as well because he certainly deserves it.”
WATCH: Jeff & Kevin look ahead to Wednesday vs. San Jose