Union sign Bakary Soumare

UPDATE: The Union announced Bakary Soumare’s signing on Tuesday shortly after noon. The announcement, which said Soumare will be eligible to play for the Union in Saturday’s road game against Houston, said of the terms of the deal, “The Union made a trade with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, giving the Union the top spot in the MLS allocation ranking and Vancouver’s Second Round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. In exchange, the Union parted with their first-round selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the club’s 12th position in the league’s allocation ranking, as well as allocation money.”

UPDATE: Ives Galarcep, a guest on the 90th Minute Union radio show, said on Monday night when asked about his report of the Soumare signing, “I can tell you right now, it’s a done deal.” Galarcep said a signing announcement is expected on Tuesday. He also says that he believes Soumare is not a DP signing, that he is “taking a pretty big pay cut.”

Ives Galarcep reports at Fox Soccer that the Philadelphia Union have signed 6-foot-4-inch central defender Bakary Soumare.

According to the unsourced report, Soumare, a 2008 Defender of the Year finalist when he was with Chicago Fire, will join the Union after being released from his contract with French side Boulogne.

A 26-year-old native of Mali, Soumare holds a US green card and would therefore not take up an international spot on the Union roster.

No confirmation was available from the Union at the time of this writing.

Ives Galarcep writes, “In order to pave the way for signing Soumare, Philadelphia completed a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps to move into the top spot in the MLS Allocation order in order to select Soumare.”

MLS rules state, “The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee.”

Soumare joined the Fire after being drafted out of the University of Virginia in 2007, where he played as a defensive midfielder. He was sold to Boulogne in the summer of 2009 for a then record transfer fee of $2.1 million. He was a regular starter at the newly promoted club, which was promptly relegated back to the second division after one season in the top flight. Soumare had a total of 67 appearances, scoring 2 goals, with Boulogne before going on loan to second division German side Karlsruhe, where he had 7 appearances. In March, the German club announced that Soumare had undergone knee surgery for damage to his meniscus.

His last match was in a 2-2 draw with Hansa Rostock on March 18, 2012.

With both Boulogne and Karlsruhe relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season, Soumare, who has long evidenced a desire to return to play in the US, saw his European prospects diminish. Galarcep writes, “With Boulogne set for relegation to the French third division, the club has let Soumare walk away from the remaining time in his contract to return to MLS.”

The website transfermarkt.com list his current value at $1,250,189.

According to Galarcep’s report, which says the Union “have been courting Soumare for more than three months,” the signing is “part of the long-term plan of former Philadelphia head coach Peter Nowak, who traded away veteran defender Dan Califf in anticipation of the arrival of Soumare.”

Galarcep is scheduled to be a guest on this evening’s installment of the 90th Minute radio show on 610WIP between 7pm and 8pm.

Tomorrow: Look for PSP’s report on the Union’s allocation money and salary budget. PSP interviewed MLS and players union officials about how MLS finances work. We’ll share the nuts and bolts, beyond what’s published in the league rules, to show more clearly just what the Union’s financial situation really is heading into Wednesday’s opening of the transfer window.


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:


  2. Ah, the Mystery of the Missing Meniscus is solved!! Nowak just got his centerbacks confused.

  3. Oh, and also, I like the signing. Woohoo for defensive depth!

  4. This is cool, I guess.

    Two things:

    1. Why are we completing Nowak’s plans after we sacked him?

    2. Our best option is a bum knee who played in the the French and German second div for the last three years?

    I dunno…

    • UnionGray says:

      1) I don’t think Nowak’s plans were why he was sacked. It was his personality and intractable nature. With his lack of honesty (Califf is injured, etc) who could believe that there even was a plan??

      2) but – yea. Bum knee?? damn

  5. Well, put it this way. In the middle of the season, we’re not exactly going to be able to acquire someone completely healthy and at the price we want to pay. He sounds like the best option out there for a position that needs filling. He has MLS experience (which a lot of our guys do not), has size (which we are sorely lacking) and is relatively young.

  6. Wow, Im surprised at the lukewarm response by PMM, and jeff. This guy was a defender of the year candidate. went to a top league french team, and played 63 times. then after that team was relegated went to a 2nd level german team on loan. nothing in what i have read about him indicated he played porrly or was not any good. the reports say he was released after his french team was relegated to the 3rd division.
    the knee issue is bad, but by all other accounts he was an elite MLS defender and nothing says he was particauraly terrible in europe

  7. I say give the guy a chance. He offers size experience and most importantly depth. As long as the price isn’t wrong this is much better than using sheanon in the middle when Valdez or okugo go down or accumulate yellow cards. Also though I really like okugo at CB. I think a 6-4 beast in the center sounds better. Onyewu has a bum knee and I think we all would not mind him dressing in union colors.

    Now if we pay 1 million bucks for him then that’s a different situation.

  8. I’m really not sure if this is a good exchange for Califf. Don’t really get this move. I’m glad the club is doing it because we need defensive depth. However, is this guy really better than Califf?

    • Was good enough in 08 to be nomiated for defender of the year … moved to europe for at the time a record fee. By all accounts did fine besides get hurt recently. whats with everyone?

      • Union trades always seem to be so lack luster. If you’re getting rid of a fan favorite you better have someone with some gravitas to replace him. But I am glad that they are getting someone because Valdez needs help as soon as possible. This guy looks able to provide it.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        There’s a lot to like and some not to.

        Upsides: Talented player, MLS experience, good height, good athlete, appears to have matured, may have high transfer value.

        Downsides: Pushes Okugo, a Union original, back to the bench just as people were getting excited about him as a CB prospect, coming off an injury, nobody has seen how Soumare’s developed overseas, and his parting with the Chicago Fire was not pretty (it came after a locker room dust-up with his coach).

        Not even going into the Califf issue.

      • Dan,

        I don’t know that I see Soumare pushing Okugo straight to the bench. It sounds from some reports like Soumare will need some time to rehab his knee, and some chances to get back to match fitness. His physical stats and experience say he’s an upgrade but he might be more of a “long-term” upgrade or a “will benefit us later in the season” upgrade. I think that 2nd CB spot is Okugo’s to lose at least into mid-July.

  9. If this guy recovers and is a solid player slot Okugo in for Lahoud or Carroll…pretty simple. Okugo’s passing has been a revelation that past two games and he can easily do what Lahoud or Carroll do.

    • ALot of people feel that OKUGO has reallt found his niche at cetner back. Something to do with he is better at seeing the field in front of him. If Hackworth goes with the “if it aint broke dont fix it” mentality, this guy has no business being here.

      • The Black Hand says:

        We were awfully thin at the CB. If anything happened to Valdez, or Okugo, we would have been in trouble. If Soumare finds his form, he should be very strong at CB.

  10. Sean Doyle says:

    I like the move because it addresses the team’s biggest need, defensive depth. Okugo will hold down the CB role next to Valdes as Soumare works his way back to match fitness. Okugo’s development into a capable center back also allows Hack to spot Valdes a day off here or there once Soumare is fit.

    Still, I’ve got to go back to January and the MLS SuperDraft. Nowak could have handed over some allocation money to FC Dallas, moved up two spots in the draft and selected an MLS ready CB named Matt Hedges. Oh well!

  11. MikeRSoccer says:

    The fundamental issue with this move is what happens with Okugo. This is a potentially fantastic deal because Soumare provides height, experience and athleticism. However, Okugo is simply too good of a player to sit on the bench. Brian Carrol is, unquestionably, the starting CM in the 4-3-3 that the Union have settled into, but finding a way to work Okugo into the line up is a must even though it might not work. Because the team is using a 4-3-3 it might be worthwhile to look abroad to teams like AC Milan who employ the 4-3-3, but often employ 3 work-horse-like CM’s who have excellent distribution skills. Milan in the past two season have often lined up with 3 or 4 CM’s. This season, when injuries permitted, they often had Nocerino, Van Bommel, Boateng and Aquilani on the field at the same time. Obviously it is difficult to compare the two teams, but the point is that a surplus of hard working CM’s can be deployed on the same field. It would be interesting to see the Union deploy Okugo/Gomez and Lm/Rm with Carrol maintaining his CDM roll. I doubt it will work as Gomez and Carrol have struggled to mesh when playing together, but with three high caliber starting CM’s on the roster the team needs to either find a way to work them in to the line up or trade one of them away.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      There isn’t anything Lahoud does that Okugo can’t do better. Okugo will slot in for Lahoud, I think/hope.
      Gomez could be used in rotation with Marfan. Play Marfan at home/against team we expect to keep the ball over. Play Gomez when we are in for a tough game.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Lahoud is able to play on the outside. I think that may be a difficult transition for Amobi and might take away from his game a bit. He is very effective in the center of the pitch. I like him at the CB, but Soumare, if he can get back to his top form, could end up being a great signing; giving our back line some much needed size and experience. Nowak sure did like his central defensive midfielders.

  12. The Black Hand says:

    We needed the depth at CB.

  13. Am I the only one who is a bit Curious as to what they gave Vancouver to make this happen?

  14. Sean Doyle says:

    OK, now I’m gonna freak out! We traded our first round pick in the 2013 SuperDraft????? WTF! That was likely going to be a very high selection, probably a guy that could have helped rebuild our team. Not as happy with this deal as I was 18 hours ago.

    Who negotiates these deals for the Union? Just feel like we keep getting the short end of a deal, especially when the Whitecaps are involved. Arghhh!!!!

    • Well, they got back a second round draft pick. So basically, the Union traded down. It’s a common move in pro sports. If current standings hold up (which I don’t expect, since the Union look improved), the Union just gave up the second pick in next year’s draft. Soumare was a top MLS center back.

      • Sean Doyle says:

        Frustrated because when the Union makes a deal with Vancouver, the Caps seem to get the better end of the deal. Harvey for allocation money, LeToux for allocation money. Allocation money and our first round pick. Soumare, if healthy, will undoubtably makes our team better but maybe next time the Caps could throw in a jar of Vaseline with the return package.

      • I think the Union just gambled that Soumare returning to full fitness in the foreseeable future is better than any CB prospect that was going to be available at the top of the draft. Knee injuries are always a question mark when we talk about the “movement and athleticism” that a player brings as part of his plusses.

        I highly doubt that we would spend a top 5 pick on a goalie AGAIN, and we already have more young forwards than we know what to do with. Maybe there would have been a dynamic wing player or AM available near the top of the draft, but the Union have shown decent acumen at finding value in the 2nd and 3rd rounds (M. Farfan, Gaddis, Nakazawa).

        There’s also an implicit message in there that the Union don’t expect to have conceded the 2nd pick in the draft. Their expectation is to be moving up the table significantly in the coming weeks and months. Optimistic, but this should be interpreted as a welcome sign to fans that the team has not conceded the season.

      • MikeRSoccer says:

        Keep in mind that the Union’s 2nd round draft picks have not exactly been failures. In fact, they have arguably been more successful then our first round picks. Michael Farfan and Amobi Okugo came out of the 2nd round. The Union also have players that were taken in the supplemental draft who also made big impacts. Gabe Farfan, Antoine Hoppenot, Ray Gaddis etc. The Union have arguably been the best team in the league at drafting players in later rounds. Even if Soumare is a flop, which I don’t think he will, the risk is worth the reward. Potentially having two all star CBs who on paper compliment each other nicely while still having two 2nd round draft picks where the Union have a history of great selections.

      • Amobi was the 6th overall selection in the first round of the Union’s innaugural draft.

      • Gabe Farfan came to the Union after leaving school early to play in Mexico, though he never rose above the reserves. Gaddis was selected at the end of the 2nd round this year (just barely before the supplemental draft). Hoppenot, on the other hand, was a supplemental pick and is proving quite a valuable pick up – not sure why he didn’t come off the board sooner as the 2 time ivy league player of the year. Okugo, as already replied came out of the first round. The Union have also drafted Toni Stahl in the 2nd round, so some expectations of shortcomings is inevitable (though I wonder with a lot of our players who didn’t work out how much that had to do with the environment created by Nowak).

  15. Thought this bit was interesting from MLS.com:
    “Current Union sporting director Diego Gutiérrez was a teammate with Soumare in Chicago in 2007-08 and later served as his agent during the transfer process to Bolougne.”

  16. Soumare is wearing #4. You guys with the Califf jerseys can just scribble out the name.

  17. Can’t you just imagine Grace Slick belting out “Don’t you want Soumare to love; Don’t you need Soumare to love….”

    • The Black Hand says:

      He looks beastly, or it could have been the soundtrack. Those two songs should loop for, the entirety of, all games aired on Comcast. No commentary.

    • James Korman says:

      Wow….2 observations from the highlight reel: The guy IS a beast in the air, and he can really thread passes through tight spots. Even more excited after watching that. Our CB position just got solidified for years to come. Valdez + Soumare + Okugo = Guarenteed solid central defense to support our new free flowing 4-3-3. I love the move.

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