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The simple truths behind the Soumare situation

Photo: Earl Gardner

Amobi Okugo is a great center back.

That’s why Bakary Soumare remains on the outside looking in and asked for a trade from Philadelphia Union.

“The reason that Baky’s situation changed from when he arrived here to now is that Amobi Okugo has been a revelation,” Union manager John Hackworth said in a news conference Wednesday.

It has changed for other reasons too, but that’s the key one. It’s really that simple. Okugo is one of the best in the league and U.S. national team pool. He could start in a World Cup. He could be part of the Union’s foundation for a decade or bring millions in a transfer fee.

“When you have players who are playing that well, you have tough decisions,” Hackworth said. “And I talked about tough decisions all through preseason, and there’s no question that the Baky-or-Amobi-at-center-back (question) was probably going to be the toughest one, and it turned out to be true.”

Hackworth’s decision is defensible. Okugo and Jeff Parke are one of the league’s best center back pairings.

This in no way detracts from Soumare. He will likely play well for another team once the Union deal him. A player of his caliber is valuable to any team, so believe Hackworth when he says, “We value Baky. There’s a reason we brought him here. There’s a reason he’s still here.”A manager always wants flexibility with multiple talented options.

But don’t criticize the manager for letting a player move on, particularly in MLS, which lacks free agency. The Union could tell Soumare to suck it up and play out his contract. They’re not.

“But after the game with Sporting Kansas City, Baky came to Nick Sakiewicz first and then to myself and said that he would like to be traded because he wasn’t happy not being a starter,” Hackworth said. “He felt like he was in the prime of his career, that’s what he came here to do. I absolutely respect him for saying these things and understand where he’s coming from. At the end of the day though, it’s a coach’s decision. The coach’s decision was to play Amobi and Jeff in that game. Baky wanting to be traded at that point threw a little bit of a wrench in our plans overall. So you try to do what is best for the player and what is best for the organization, and we still are in the process of weighing that out.”

The big question of Okugo’s position

I couldn’t get free for Hackworth’s news conference Wednesday. (Public service called.) Fortunately, PSP writer Mike Servedio recorded it. As usual, Hackworth directly answered all the questions he was asked. He ducked none. He remains a classy, straightforward antidote to Peter Nowak’s reign of terror.

So I didn’t get to ask Hackworth the question everyone wants to hear him articulate: Why do you see Okugo as a center back instead of a defensive midfielder?

I’ll hazard an educated guess.

Okugo is a center back. He always has been, to a degree. His position change is not like those of Ray Gaddis, the Farfans and others. Okugo has switched between defensive midfield and center back since he was a youth. He played midfield for one year of college but often center back as a youth international, the context in which Hackworth came to know him while leading U.S. Soccer’s youth academy in Bradenton, Fla. Okugo has flourished at center back in an almost unique fashion for Americans, playing the position like the classic mobile Spanish center backs. The closest American comparison is Geoff Cameron, another converted midfielder who became arguably the best center back in MLS before leaving for England.

Okugo could make a very good midfielder. He could be an historic center back.

The hometown guy

Make no mistake, that was the choice. Jeff Parke was going to start no matter what.

Parke is one of the league’s best center backs. He is team captain material. He grew up in nearby Downingtown, Pa., and played college ball at Drexel. His wife just had a baby, so they wanted to come home from the Seattle Sounders to be near family, like many new parents do.

How do you not acquire the local guy made good? How do you say to Parke, “Thanks, but no thanks”?

You grab Parke. You don’t even hesitate. Every pro soccer team should want some local players at their core. It ties the team closer to its community, which is increasingly important after Nowak damaged those ties.

Soumare: A good player in a bad spot

Soumare joined the Union under some of the worst circumstances a player could face.

  • The manager forced out the popular team captain to make room for Soumare.
  • The manager then got himself fired.
  • Soumare joined the team anyway because a deal had been struck.
  • Soumare didn’t heal properly from an injury he sustained before joining the Union, so he missed most of the season.
  • A young benchwarmer turned out to be a superstar center back in waiting while Soumare was hurt.
  • Then Baby Parke comes along, and one of the Philadelphia area’s best soccer products wants to come home to play for the Union.

When healthy, Soumare would would likely rank among the Union’s best 11 players. He’s healthy now. But you only get to play two center backs. Okugo is a center back.

The move is perfectly consistent with the Union’s vision from day 1, and it’s exactly what the Union’s vision should be. Parke is from here. Okugo might as well be. Philly has raised him since he was a teen. Even if all three players were equal, Parke and Okugo would start for those reasons.

Soumare sees it too. You can call him impatient, but don’t call him foolish. He understands the business. He knows athletes have limited shelf lives. Sure, Hackworth would love to have Soumare on the team, because he’s GOOD. But Soumare believes he can’t waste his prime waiting for a call behind two good center backs when another MLS club would start him today. That’s perfectly defensible. He’ll be in demand. He’ll do just fine. He’s too a good player not to. And he wasn’t willing to wait, so he went public.

The big picture, post-Nowak

What you’re seeing is the final act of Nowak’s legacy. It’s not just Soumare. It’s Freddy Adu. It was last year’s misguided Latin American acquisitions. Soumare’s was the most defensible of all those moves, though how Nowak cleared room for him will not be forgotten.

The Union are steering back to the vision upon which the team was founded. It’s a local team, essentially started by its fans in a way no other MLS team was. Parke and Okugo reflect that.

Everyone wants someone to blame. Don’t blame Soumare. He’s a good player in an unfortunate situation. Don’t blame Hackworth. He remains a good choice for manager and is still trying to rebuild a team handicapped by Nowak’s catastrophic personnel decisions. This is Nowak’s aftermath. Blame him.

Or if that’s not good enough, you could blame Baby Parke. If that kid doesn’t come along, none of this ever happens.

101 Comments

  1. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    SUCH a great piece. Thanks, Dan. This is what I have been trying to say but lacked the verbage, platform, and smarts to say so well as you did. Okugo hasn’t just been a serviceable, or even a “good” centerback since he was converted — he’s been GREAT. One of the best in the league. As in, I would feel a lot better about tomorrow’s Costa Rica game if Okugo were sliding in alongside Gonzalez (and Cameron out right).
    .
    Either way, Okugo has a shot at being a future #USMNT prospect as CB. We didn’t get to see a ton of Okugo at CDM, but what I did see was good, but not revelatory — as he has been at CB.
    .
    Do I regret what happened to Soumare? Yes. But that’s the way things are. Very, very well done, Dan.

  2. Luva Golazo says:

    Excellent piece. Great perspective. Lots of us (myself included) have cried over this because we saw Amobi as a big part of improving our sketchy midfield and Baky as the means to move him up. If Kleberson works out well, Hach will look like a soccer genius.

  3. the thing you have and many other consistently leave out about having these 3 is that it’s about more than just what the best centerback pairing is. it’s about the entire team and what it would look like playing all 3 with okugo is DM. the only question that should have been answered is a team with parke, soumare, okugo better than one with parke, okugo, carroll. we won’t get that chance now and yes that is the fault of hackworth.

    • Very good point, Nick. I did skip past that point, largely because I felt the post was running far too long. So, here’s my take:

      Yes, the team as comprised right now would probably be better with Okugo in midfield and a peak (or near peak) form Soumare at center back next to Parke. Carroll has had two bad games and one fairly good one (New England) so far, but that’s just 3 games. Still, he is limited in attack; Okugo is an improvement over him there.

      However, I think the Union will seek an upgrade over Carroll at DCM if he doesn’t pick his game back up to, say, 2011 levels. At that point, the real question would be is a triangle of Okugo, Parke and Soumare better than one of Okugo, Parke and (fill-in-the-blank-with-DCM-to-be-acquired-later).

      • I also feel that Hackworth thinks Okugo has a better chance to excel as a CB over CDM. So he is starting him there not just because he is good, but because he wants him to keep learning the position.

        Cameron moved from CDM to CB at a much later date, and look where he is at now. I would much rather let Okugo get that experience much earlier if it is his most promising position. Which I believe it is.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Geoff Cameron is 6’3″ tall.

      • There’s one problem with your argument. It’s not a debate of triangles between Parke-Okugo-Carroll and Parke-Soumare-Okugo. We’re not playing a Parke-Okugo-Carroll triange. For 174 out of 270 minutes this season, we’ve played a Parke-Okugo-Carroll-Lahoud square. You don’t have to convinve me that we need Carroll more than Soumare, you have to convince me that we need Lahoud more than Soumare.

      • Fair point on the square vs. triangle, but I also think Lahoud vs. Soumare (or Carroll + Lahoud vs. Soumare) is not the argument either. Three games is … three games. Nobody thinks Carroll and Lahoud are a long-term answer at DM, least of all Hackworth.

      • The Black Hand says:

        That would raise the questions of: Why has Hackworth not addressed the long-term answer to the DM? What is he waiting for? What is the purpose of this campaign???

        If he does not intend to challenge the league, he should be working towards challenging in the future. No?

      • I would say he’s waiting for all the money Novak spent elsewhere to free up so he can continue building the team he wants. I have been critical of some of hacks decisions, but I think novaks personnel decisions have hamstrung this team more than we realize.

      • waiting for that money to be freed up by spending 1.2 mil on kelberson?

      • Kleberson is a player Hackworth said he wanted to bring in as soon as he became available. The two way move (Adu as a makeweight) only makes the move that much easier in terms of moving a contract you no longer want. Judge Hackworth and his ability to acquire and manage talent based on his acquisitions (Le Toux, Parke, Casey) and potentially Kleberson. Kleberson is the reason to free up the money (but also where it gets spent).

  4. You can’t play 3 CBs in a game? The Union’s 2011 playoffs called and want their tactics back. 😉

  5. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    It amazes me how the same people who cried foul over Nowak’s tossing of fan favorites (as I did) are so quick to jettison Carroll, who has been a very solid CDM by all accounts. Is he a box-box or regista-style player? No. But that’s not what he’s being asked to do.
    .
    If we’re very honest with ourselves, the simple truth is that the midfield fustercluck right now isn’t 1) a Carroll problem and 2) not something that would be automatically solved with Okugo. And it goes without saying that we don’t actually know if Soumare would be as good as Okugo or Parke has been.
    .
    Based on preseason form, the bigger question isn’t about Carroll, but why Torres isn’t playing. But that has nothing to do with hanging out Carroll to dry so only a few are interested in that conversation.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Ive been trying to say this for sometime but its not a popular opinion around here…

      • Say it anyway. Popularity is not required. We don’t want group think. Divergent ideas make for the best discussions.

    • This is wishful thinking, but I do hope that getting Kleberson to pair with Carroll in the center would allow the Union to go a little more offensive with Torres on the left. Couple that with Marfan returning to the right, and you have a pretty solid midfield.

    • Agreed we also gave a young Okugo a chance and he turned out to be a revelation in the back line why not give Torres a chance…by all preseason accounts he was a step ahead the other team as well as our own team. As much as losing Soumare will hurt, losing a young, very talented CAM in Torres will hurt for a longer period of time.

      Another point to add is Hackworth himself said that he told Torres you either come to camp fit or he will not play…he looked really good in preseason…do not let him waste his talent in reserve games

    • The Black Hand says:

      The accommodations made to field Carroll have been baffling. No way do you let go of a quality CB, in order to give Carroll ‘one more year’. Carroll has been far from “very solid” and he almost personally kills our transition game, with his inability to link play. He forces the back line to throw away long balls, by not providing an outlet. His tackling has become suspect, as well. I’m not seeing the benefit of Carroll (now), let alone moving forward.

    • I’ve actually defended Carroll a lot this season, one of my concerns in the midfield is actually with the other parts, like I’m fine if you want to give Gaddis a go at learning LB, but put Garfan at LM to help him because Keon isn’t going to do that( I’m not trying to Keon bash that’s just not his gig). And why didn’t you spend the preseason playing the pair over there to work it out. And I agree with the Torres comments, but for some reason hack is seeing something the rest of us aren’t.

  6. JediLos117 says:

    But but but…What if…what if? I’m gonna speculate! I know whats best! Yackity smackity!

    • If you are willing to give Gaddis a shot at left back. Why not try starting Torres? Why not try starting Parke, Okugo and Soumare?

      • JediLos117 says:

        Because I got no faith in Torres and because Okugo and Parke arent broken. Didnt you read the article?

      • Your and my faith are not in question. The fact is Torres looked great in preseason. The only way yo know how it works is to try him on the field. And a not broken Okugo at Dm is also a not broken Okugo at mid.

      • JediLos117 says:

        How did he do against SKC? I dont remember noticing him influence the game.

      • Coming in at the 80th minute? really? Really?

      • The Black Hand says:

        He actually looked smart with the ball, for the two (or so) chances that he had with possession. The composure was there and he was looking to make positive movement. He showed, in less than ten minutes, as well as any Union midfielder. To have no faith, is a bit harsh. It begs me to ask; Who, in the Union middle, do you have faith in? (Aside from Brian Carroll, of course)

      • JediLos117 says:

        Right now: McInerney, Le Toux, Parke, Okugo, Carroll and Williams.
        .
        I dont have faith with anybody in the middle.
        .
        I feel the X’s are our weakest spots and the middle X’s are why everyone thinks Carroll sucks.
        .
        X,Williams,Parke, Okugo, X, Carroll, X,X,X, Le Toux, McInherney
        .
        Change those 3 X’s and Carroll all of the sudden is rated.

      • The Black Hand says:

        …or change Carroll and, all of the sudden, we have a midfield. The argument could go either way.
        As of now, the WITH Carroll side is the only one we have seen…and it has sucked…real bad.

      • JediLos117 says:

        So which is it hand? The Midfield is VERY BROKEN or just KINDA broken because of Carroll.
        .
        Your arguing that Okugo is all of the sudden gonna make Daniel, Cruz, M. Farfan, G. Farfan, Torres that much more effective and make us more competitive than 6 out of 9 points?
        .
        Your trying to tell me that Carroll is the reason our other midfielders have looked weak?

      • The Black Hand says:

        As it stands, the Union midfield is very much broken and Carroll is VERY much a part of it.
        .
        I’m arguing that YES; Amobi Okugo will improve our midfield. His defense and positioning will outclass Carroll and his linkage will make the other midfielders relevant…if we get a chance to see it. Carroll cannot man the defensive mid, on his own anymore. He forces another midfielder to square up with him, to provide an outlet. By doing this, he taking away an offensive outlet, forcing the remaining two mids to cover the with of the pitch. However, both of the outside mids cheat towards the center of the field, making our attack very narrow and easier to defend. YES, this is all relative to Brian Carroll! The 6 out of 9 points have been the result of great fortunes and, I believe, you know this.
        .
        YES!!! Without a doubt, Brian Carroll’s lack of transition has weakened the effectiveness of our midfield.
        .
        I love debating with you Los. Your counters have been logical and to the point. Cheers!

      • The Black Hand says:

        But the midfield is VERY BROKEN!!!!!!!!!!

      • Do you have faith in anyone starting in midfield? It’s not working right now, so why not give him a chance as well.

  7. As usual, a well written article that is articulate and intelligent.
    Still, I think Okugo needs to be a DMid. He can cover more ground, contribute to the offense more, and dominate the game from there.
    It’s also a simple matter of logistics. It’s clear to anyone watching Carrol is losing a step. We had the perfect pieces to counter act that downfall while actually getting better. Hackworth didn’t take advantage of that.

  8. It seems strange that a team that is always crying poverty when it comes to players would hang onto Saomare as a backup. My theory is this in 2009 Nick Sakiewicz went to an old gypsy who prophesied that unless the Union have at least 150,000 dollars of defence sitting on the bench he will die.

  9. One concern with this situation is that Okugo’s contract has to be up either this year or next year. I think Generation Adidas contracts are four years. Getting him to sign a new contract is going to be the Union’s top priority, or they risk losing him to Europe. He could be gone anyway if he continues to perform at a high level.

    • I don’t think he is Europe ready yet. But he might want to test the market.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He’s nowhere near Europe ready. Amobi should put in a couple more years here, gathering experience and confidence.

      • Perhaps he’s not ready, but opportunity will dictate whether he goes to Europe or not. If a quality team comes calling, I’d be hard pressed to believe he’d stay, especially since he’d be able to leave on a free transfer.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      Europe is a lot of places, guys. Unless you’re talking UCL ball, there’s no doubt in my mind that Okugo could make it in a decent to good Euro league. Maybe not a regular starter in the Barclays, mind you, but there are some very respectable championships that could definitely use someone of his quality.
      .
      Not saying he’s going to make the jump — or should — but let’s not give Europe more credit than its due, here.

      • But Europe has many more Okugo level payers than the US. The US imports players of Okugos quality. In a few years maybe. But not now.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Most of Europe is playing at a level far superior to what Amobi is accustomed to. I’m not saying that he will not, eventually, get to that level. I’m saying that, as of now, he isn’t there. People are overvaluing , a little bit. He has played very well; but best in the nation??? I remember Amobi and Carlos getting tooled on often, last year. Granted, he was new to the position. He is a very good player and will become better. Let’s not crown him so soon.

      • It’s not about “crowning” him. It’s about realizing that he’s very close to finishing out his contract with the Union, which would allow him to leave on his own terms.
        .
        As a former youth national team player, I’m sure he realizes he needs to play at a higher level in order to become a USMNT regular. The next World Cup cycle is going to be wide open for defensive players trying to get into the starting XI.
        .
        It makes a lot more sense for him to at least try at a higher level than to sign another contract with MLS.

      • The Black Hand says:

        All very good points. I got nuthin’.

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Klinsi is talking about how he rates MLS as well as many Euro leagues, talking about how Europe isn’t monolithic. My point exactly.

  10. The Black Hand says:

    Okugo has been playing admirably at CB. Superstar??? I’m not sure about that. Blame baby Parke??? More like; Thank God for Baby Parke!!!

    • Well, maybe “superstar” was a bit of hyperbole … although I did say “superstar in waiting” … or something.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’ll give you that, Dan. He has played well, though Parke has outclassed him so far, in my opinion. I would LOVE to get a look at Amobi at the CDM, even if only against Pumas.

  11. With regards this part :- “Everyone wants someone to blame. Don’t blame Soumare. He’s a good player in an unfortunate situation. Don’t blame Hackworth. He remains a good choice for manager and is still trying to rebuild a team handicapped by Nowak’s catastrophic personnel decisions. This is Nowak’s aftermath. Blame him.”

    How long will blaming Nowak go on for?

    • This one is directly tied to Nowak, but after Soumare & Adu are gone, I’d say it’s all on Hackworth now. I think he’ll be judged on the Casey and Kleberson signings. Both carry large contracts, and Casey is continuing the injury prone label.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’m not sure that the Union need to de-Nowak. He made some questionable moves but he did bring some quality players to the club. I think that Soumare is one of those players. If his transfer (out) backfires, then that is all on Hackworth.

  12. Encouraging read.

    One thing I’ve been wondering is, at what point did the U know Okugo would be the CB of the future? Was it before the Baky trade and expenditure of cash (allocation and salary) and a pick at a position where there was an heir apparent and an MLS All-Star already on the roster, and they just assumed it would take longer for the heir to develop? Or was it more recently, either during the Baky injury (or even more recently)? It could be that I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but I don’t remember there being much hype about him being a stud CB prospect before he actually was showing that skill last season. I ask because it’s not often someone turns a half season into “future national team CB” from “young benchwarmer.” Of course, it’s possible they could have known Valdes wasn’t long for North America, and it’s unlikely they were predicting the Parke move back then, making the Baky-Okugo duo the goal at the time.

    As a relative newcomer to the MLS (just since the Union formed), it surprises me how much a team can be willing to spend on players who don’t end up playing.

    Related: Eager to hear the site’s thoughts on the Kleberson acquisition part of the Adu jettison.

  13. Who is blaming soumare for a FO clusterfluck?

  14. Also – Which team do people feel better seeing? :-

    MacMath
    Williams, Parke, Soumare, Gaddis
    Carroll, Okugo
    Daniel, Marfan, Garfan
    LeToux

    or

    MacMath
    Williams, Parke, Okugo, Gaddis
    Carroll, Lahoud
    Daniel, Marfan, Garfan
    LeToux

    That was the lineup on opening day, and what could have been with a simple Lahoud vs Soumare switch and Okugo playing Lahouds spot in midfield. Considering all pre-season the first of those lineups would have been the suggested lineup if given the choice of the 2, then what i’d like to have known is what exactly made Hackworth chose to completely change things up when AFAIK Okugo and Parke played a terrible 60minutes together in preseason?

  15. Buzzkill_Ed says:

    I think Okugo starts for this team somewhere no matter what. I think the real debate now is Soumare vs. Carroll. I have not been at all impressed with Carroll so far. Now, we haven’t seen Soumare in a league match so I can’t say he would have played better. I wonder how much of all this is because Carroll was named captain before the season began.

  16. Also – if we’re blaming Nowak legacy – look no further than Lahoud.

    • True but it isn’t Nowak who is starting Lahoud

    • The Black Hand says:

      I like Lahoud, actually. We have consistently looked like a better side with him on the pitch. He is not a star but he does play a decent game.

      • Lahoud is quality. People just fail to see it. He plays a solid game. He’s not a superstar but he’s not as bad as people make him out to be. Daniel is another example of that.

      • I by no means think lahoud is a scrub, but him Cruz and Keon I think should all be subs not starters. Like hopenot I think they all brink quality but are better coming off the bench to do very specific things that are in there tool belt.

      • the reason people get frustrated with our midfield is that we do not have a single solid player. Keon and Lahoud are good players but frequently make the same mistakes game in and game out. Cruz is very athletic but not the most skilled player. Marfan has flashes of great play and then fizzles out just as fast. Torres looked great in pre-season, but I think he hasn’t started due to injury [last year] and what I think is a fitness issue. Garfan is like the mediocre/sloppier version of his brother. Makes some great plays occasionally, but then blows opportunities [Golden chance against SKC, anyone?] So who’s left? Fernandes? Unlikely. Pfeffer? He’s in Germany. Jordan? Kassel? McLaughlin? Also unlikely. Adu? He’s gone. The last two options are Okugo and Carroll who play best in the DM. I’m just out of ideas/options.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The really frustrating part is that we knew all of this last year.

  17. I think the comparison of Okugo to Geoff Cameron is a very good one. Cameron’s best position is CB. Where does he play for Stoke right now? RB. Kinnear played him at CM and CDM as well as CB while he was at Houston. Playing Okugo at CDM or CM could significantly upgrade our midfield, and if Soumare’s still got it, the cost to our defense would be minimal. I just don’t see the downside to giving it a try.

    Same goes for Torres at CAM–he was by far our best attacking force in the preseason friendlies. I don’t see the rest of their training, so who knows what Hackworth sees that I don’t.

    • I have two theories why Torres doesn’t start. 1. It’s matter of fitness. Maybe Hack doesn’t think he can play late into the game and then now Hack has another sub issue.
      /
      or 2. Hack plans to bring him in between 60-80′ to add that much needed spark in the offensive third – ala Hoppenot.
      /
      Thoughts?

  18. Is it just me, or does it feel way too early to anoint Okugo as a future NT fixture at CB? I feel like he’s got a long way to go just to be as good as Parke – a MLS All-Star caliber player, but never quite UCL/UEL material.

    I still see tendencies in Amobi’s game that would better fit the role of defensive midfielder; that’s the source of the hue and cry from the fanbase, if I had to guess.

    • ” Okugo is one of the best in the league and U.S. national team pool. He could start in a World Cup. He could be part of the Union’s foundation for a decade or bring millions in a transfer fee.”

      Slow your roll cowboy. I’m not even convinced he’s the best CB on the Union. He’s got some upside, but he is still a work in progress. Hackworth wondered why Parke wasnt with the USMNT, not Okugo. So in 2018 or 2022, Amobi is one of the best two CB’s in the US? Really? And Jack’s starting up top on the same team too right? Let’s simmer down the hyperbole on how good our players are.

      • No hyperbole. He COULD be start in a World Cup, COULD be part of the Union foundation, COULD bring millions in a transfer. That’s what I wrote.

        One of the best in the league? Even Soumare said that. Name 10 who are better. I think Okugo’s top 10, and given time, more people will too.

        One of the best 2 CBs in the USMNT pool in 2018 or 2022? Name a American better center back under age 24.

        No hyperbole. Sure, it’s early to anoint him as a fixture at CB for the USMNT. I didn’t do that. I didn’t even say he was better than Parke. I just chose the right word: “could.”

      • The whole premise of your article is why its ok to lose Soumare. “Okugo is a great CB”. Today. He’s a good MLS CB. Is he better than Parke? You could say he’s better than Soumare based on Hack’s decision to play one, though Hack also played Daniel at CAM, so maybe not the best metric.

        As for other non Union defenders that should be in the conversation for Top 10 – Besler; George John; Omar Gonzales; Collin; Victor Bernardez; Jamison Olave; Jay Demerit; Friedrich;Marvell Wynne;Borchers; Austin Berry; Boswell; Carlos Valdes (technically still here)

      • First off what I took from the article was clearly that Baky may in fact be better than Okugo right now but that developing Okugo at center back is more important in the long term. Secondly dubious top ten considering you are including a colombian league player, a old and injured player, and not including the better center back on our team

      • The Black Hand says:

        But, we already have CB’s. We don’t have DM’s. Why would it be more important to develop Okugo as a CB? Shouldn’t we at least give him a run, at DM?

      • Actually, the premise is not why it’s OK to lose Soumare. It’s why they ARE losing Soumare. And why it’s defensible to choose Okugo and Parke as your starting center backs. However, I didn’t even say I agree with the choice. (Take a look at my suggested lineup here.) I’m stepping back and examining it.

        As for your 10 … Wynne now plays right back. DeMerit is out for the year and maybe done. Friedrich might be done too. John was weak last year due to injury, but he’ll probably rebound. Collin is good when paired with Besler but mediocre without him and vulnerable to through balls, as teams started to learn around mid-season last year. I’d take Okugo over him. And come on, you can’t count Valdes. That’s cheating. (Clever though. 😉 ) An off-the-top-of-my-head list of top 10 is probably Olave, Bernardez, Gonzalez, Besler, Parke, and Nesta … and probably Okugo, Boswell, Berry and Borchers or John. (Collin can come in right after them. I’d throw Friedrich and DeMerit in the list if they were healthy, but neither may play this season.)

      • The Black Hand says:

        Gonzalez(LA)
        Bernardez(SJ)
        Besler(SKC)
        Nesta(MTL)
        Ferrari(MTL)
        Demerit(VAN)
        Olave(NYRB)
        Pearce(NYRB)
        Parke(PHI)
        John(DAL)

        I’d put them ahead of Amobi

      • Ferrari’s good. Pearce may end up moving to left back more permanently, so I didn’t count him, but he’s also very good. Also, you know who we all left out? Chad Marshall. I wonder if he’s slipped enough that this isn’t mere oversight. I think injuries have hurt him, but … anyway.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The kicker is; Amobi Okugo has been very good at CB. What if he is an even better DM?

  19. What is beginning to concern me is a building trend of Hackworth doublespeak.

    1. If Torres shows up fit he can earn playing time. 10 minutes on the field seems a little unfair for the player who, I’ve read somewhere, had the best pre-season of anyone.

    2. Hackworth telling us he had asked Adu to take a paycut to stay with the team and now Sakiewicz telling us they never asked him to take a paycut.

    3. Soumare’s decision to ask for a trade influenced a decision not to start him against colorado or new england. Yet, Okugo was a revelation at CB and has prevented Soumare’s starting.

    I’m not saying that there can’t be multiple reasons for making a decision but let’s not give Hackworth the “honest” tag for answering questions directly when he has been putting a large amount of spin on his end of every argument.

    • It is Organizational. It is Systemic. And it stems from the front office and the fans wanting the magic of the first two seasons back. It’s not coming back. It is largely the front offices fault and it is what it is.
      We should treat it like a divorce. Break up as amicably as possible and try not to warp the kids(the team) along the way.
      This won’t happen of coarse so much of the teams marketing is geared towards the supposed connection between the team and the fans that if they geared themselves more like the Flyers or other sports teams they wouldn’t know what to do.

  20. Andy Muenz says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned in the comments is what we’ll get in return for Soumare. Just because Soumare’s requested a trade doesn’t mean we have to give him away for a bag of peanuts (or even the allocation money we got him for). It seems like if we are able to get even close to fair market value as either a left back or midfielder, we could go a long way towards improving the team.

    • a left back would be nice but lets face it it’s gonna be allocation money.

    • I would take a cheap back up CB and some money, then we keep some depth and hopefully can use the money elsewhere

    • Of course now that everything has came out, and Hackworth has said he isn’t going to play Soumare if he wants to be traded, teams aren’t going to offer anything. We are basically going to be paying someone to take Soumare off our hands and get rid of the 280k salary. It’s Adu all over again. SOmetimes having no idea what’s going on with the club can be the best thing, at least then you are going to somewhat get value in a trade.

      • CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

        Barry, your point is a good one. I gave them the benefit on the Adu fiasco because it was so obvious that nothing had to be said, but this time poor decision making seems like the best explanation.

      • I still think the reason for hanging Freddy out there publicly was because Hack was trying to play hard ball with Freddy.

        Soumare is different. The team didn’t break this news. PSP and Soumare did. Hack made it pretty clear in the press conference that he was unhappy that the story was in the media this way. Unlike Adu, who was kind of damaged goods anyway, this problem being public certainly does hurt Soumare’s trade value. It seems like his doing the interview with PSP actively hurts his value, although I’m sure that wasn’t his intention. Maybe he thought the U wouldn’t work to bring about a trade if he didn’t make a public move.

      • Players DO NOT want to go to the media. it is a last resort. as i understand it, keeping things behind closed doors is a far more preferable way to go about business. yet, this is a failure by Hack and the organization to deal with another Union problem in house. He knew that Baky wanted out and obviously did not do enough to either convince to stay or help him to leave. Players don’t go running to the media just to do it.

      • not playing has hurt his value as much as anything.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Not by Fred’s doing though. The Union have a lot to learn, when it comes to player transfers…scratch that…The Union have a lot to learn.

  21. This is totally an MLS issue. Depth is impossible to have when you play one game per week. Yes there is US Open Cup, but that’s nothing compared to a European schedule. These players need week in and week out runs. It’s impossible when you only have one game every week. There needs to be a third domestic cup. That way, you generally play 2 games per week.

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