Bakary Soumare

Bakary Soumare at full health, Austin Berry still playing catch-up as Chicago Fire begin preseason

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – One Chicago Fire center back came into the 2013 season hampered by a lingering injury and the other came in fresh after a full offseason.

In 2014, the situation is reversed.

After suffering from a knee injury for the last few years, Bakary Soumare (above) had his first healthy offseason in years this winter while Austin Berry – who is seven games away from the record for consecutive complete games played by a field player, which is currently held by Colorado Rapids defender Drew Moor (69) – was recently cleared for training after offseason shoulder surgery.

“It's very exciting, I feel very good and very fit,” Soumare told reporters when the team reported for physicals on Saturday. “This is the first time going into preseason where I don't have any knee pain or discomfort. I remember last year at this time, I was still having my knee drained every week.”

Soumare struggled with the injuries during his three seasons in France and Germany and played just one game for Philadelphia in 2012. He returned to the Union for the 2013 season, but was relegated to a reserve role.

The 2008 MLS Best XI member stopped feeling consistent pain in his knee after he was traded to the Fire midway through last season, and he was able to have his first healthy offseason in years.

“Last year, coming into this season when I was in Philly, I was feeling good, but I was still feeling rusty from when I was out the whole year,” Soumare said. “I've played this whole offseason and I'm feeling really good. I'm very excited about his season.

Berry finally had surgery in November after suffering from a sore shoulder since his rookie season in 2012. He'll have plenty of competition for a starting spot after the club brought in Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni in the offseason, but he said he didn't view the injury as a major setback.

“I'll have to play some catch-up, but at the same time, [trainer Tony Jouaux] will keep me healthy,” Berry said. “I wasn't expecting to get cleared this quickly, so I guess the healing went really well and I'm ready to go. I'm excited this year.”