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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Monday, April 8, 2013

Soumare in Chicago, but another team may make more sense

For a second straight week, wantaway defender Bakary Soumare wasn’t in the Union’s matchday 18-man roster.

Two weeks ago in New York, it was written off to fatigue after national-team duty with Mali. This week in Columbus, after midweek assurances that he was training and in the selection mix, it may have been just another installment of manager John Hackworth’s desire to go for it away from home, naming a bench without a recognized defender for a second straight week.

A team official confirmed Sunday that Soumare didn’t make the trip to Columbus. Sunday evening, he was in Chicago, where he keeps an offseason home, taking in a match between his former team the Fire and New York.

It’s worth a wonder if the word “former” may soon be removed in front Chicago. The Fire, who only picked up their first win of the season Sunday, looked to be in dire straits. Manager Frank Klopas has found himself on the hot seat, vowing changes. Highly paid central defender Arne Friedrich has missed the last couple of games, and the defense has been atrocious (10 goals allowed in 5 games) to find them last in the Eastern Conference.

Because of injuries that have pulled the likes of Jalil Anibaba in from the fullback role, Chicago gave the first career start to left back Hunter Jumper Sunday while deputizing veteran midfielder Wells Thompson as a right back.

So Chicago would look to be a natural fit for Soumare then? They can’t give much back to the Union in terms of a spare defender, but they have all their draft picks in next year’s draft (though the Union added a conditional selection from the Chandler Hoffman deal, so who knows how attractive that is).

It would certainly appear to be something Soumare would prefer. He has the location on his Twitter account set as Chicago, and the tweets exchanged with Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko make it sound like he’d like to be back in red.

But there are impediments to a deal. For one, Soumare’s cap hit was at $240,000 last year (kudos to The Goalkeeper blog for storing this info that the league keeps tightly under wraps) and Soumare admitted in his interview with Philly Soccer Page that it has increased since last year.

By my calculations from last year’s salary figures – using the salary figures from last year on the players acquired from elsewhere – the Fire sit at about $2.86 million. (And that’s not counting any raise for 2012 rookie of the year Austin Berry.) With the salary cap set at $2.95 million, Soumare would take them almost certainly over (though I can’t account for allocation money that could mitigate that hit.)

Plus Friedrich and fullback Gonzalo Segares are on the return trail. Playing time with Soumare, Friedrich and Berry could get tight, exactly the scenario Soumare is trying to avoid.

So, then, let me float another possibility: Colorado.

The Rapids sit next-to-last in the Western Conference, having just won their first game of the season over the weekend against Real Salt Lake. For the second straight game, they’ve fielded a back four with converted midfielders Shane O’Neill and Brian Mullan at fullback. Center back Diego Calderon is out four to five months with a knee injury, and the team is looking for stability without starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens for an extended period. And, according to reporter Chris Bianchi, they’re looking for a defender.
Salary wise, Colorado checked in at $3.1 million last year; with the departures of Conor Casey, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson, Tyson Wahl and Edu, they shed almost a million dollars. Without bringing in a DP this year, they should be well under the cap.

(To be fair, another shaky performance by the New York defense against Chicago and Roy Miller’s recent rooting to the bench means that they could also be in the market. On the face of it, though, pairing the 6-4 Soumare with 6-3 Jamison Olave doesn’t seem the soundest of plans.)

It remains to be seen what the Union’s official position on Soumare is. Hackworth, as he did during the Freddy Adu transfer saga, has been reticent to discuss the process for obvious reasons. From the sounds of the discussions Soumare revealed to PSP, reconciliation doesn’t seem to be an easy proposition. And the Union’s reliance on the same back four for every MLS minute this young season indicates that returning a replacement defender doesn’t seem to be a priority.

At the very least, in Colorado and Chicago, there are pieces that could form the foundation of a deal.

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