By IVES GALARCEP
If the Chicago Fire needed some convincing that they should make a trade for Bakary Soumare, a pair of shutout losses coming at the hands of a defense featuring Soumare did the trick.
are set to acquire have acquired Soumare from the Philadelphia Union, sources confirmed to SBI on Thursday. Details of the trade have yet to be made available, but sources tell SBI that Philadelphia will be picking up a significant portion of Soumare’s salary in the trade, which is expected to be announced by Friday.
(UPDATED- Sources have confirmed to SBI that the Fire will send a 2nd-round pick in the 2014 MLS Draft and a small amount of allocation money to the Union in exchange for Soumare. The Union will also be picking up a portion of Soumare’s salary both this year and in 2014.)
Soumare is expected to join the Fire for their upcoming match vs. Real Salt Lake.
The deal reunites Soumare with the Fire, who he left in the summer of 2009 after securing a $2 million transfer to French club Boulogne. He spent parts of three seasons with Boulogne, also spending a half season on loan to Bundesliga 2 side Karlsruhe.
A finalist for MLS Defender of the Year in 2008, Soumare endured a serious knee injury that sidelined him prior to his return to MLS in 2012. His recovery from knee surgery appears to be complete after showing well in consecutive starts this month, both shutout wins vs. the Fire.
The fact Chicago is willing to trade for Soumare suggests Arne Friedrich’s injury situation is not improving. Sources tell SBI that part of the hold-up in the Fire’s pursuit of Soumare was trying to give Friedrich as much time as possible to recover from a nagging hamstring injury. With the German veteran not showing signs of recovering, it appears more likely now that he will either retire or reach an agreement to leave the Fire.
So why are the Union making the deal? The move offers some cap relief in 2013 (more than $100,000), which Philadelphia can use to sign a player this season. The deal also frees up a significant amount of salary cap space in 2014, when Soumare’s salary is set to be even higher (sources tell me it will be close to max non-DP salary) and when the Union’s paid portion of that deal is reduced.
Along with being rid of a majority of Soumare’s contract in 2014, the Union will also see a significant amount of cap room freed up in 2014 that is currently being occupied by dead money (players bought out and transfer fee portions from older deals) as well as by Brazilian midfielder Kleberson, who is on a one-year loan deal with the Union. The Union will now have a considerable amount of cap room in 2014, as well as potentially having three picks in the Top 25 of the 2014 MLS Draft, a draft that is expected to be stronger and deeper than this year’s draft.
Soumare, 28, has made just three starts for the Union since joining Philadelphia last summer, but he appears to finally be over the knee injury that kept him sidelined. He will be expected to challenge for a starting centerback spot right away, which will likely mean a move back to right back for Jalil Anibaba.
While Soumare’s acquisition should help the Fire defense, their struggling attack continues to be an issue and it is one the team is actively working to improve. Sources have told SBI that Chicago has held trade talks with multiple MLS teams, including the Galaxy, which the Fire continue to work with on a potential deal for the rights to Robbie Rogers. The sides were believed to still be far apart as recently as last week.
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