THE UNION appears to have found a solution to its tenacious, yet diminutive defense.
A team source told the Daily News that the club reached an agreement with Malian defender Bakary Soumaré. While Union officials declined to comment, the source revealed the club plans to introduce Soumaré on Tuesday. The Union hosts minor league affiliate Harrisburg 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Soumaré, 26, can't officially join the Union roster until Thursday, when the international summer transfer window opens. He's expected to replace midfielder-turned-defender Amobi Okugo, who has played solid in the makeshift role since appearing in the Union's win over D.C. United in the fourth round of the Open Cup.
Soumaré was 2008 MLS defender of the year finalist while a member of the Chicago Fire, which drafted the native of Mali with the second overall pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. In 2009, Soumaré left Chicago to play for French first-divsion club Boulogne, where he became a regular before being sent out on loan last year to Karlsruher SC of the German first division.
The only way for the Union to acquire Soumaré was through allocation order, given his former status as an MLS player. Vancouver held the top spot in allocation order, so it's thought the Union struck a deal with cash in exchange for the move-up. MLS guidelines dictate that any player who left the league through a transfer can return only via allocation order, unless the team that sold said player did not utilize the cash received in the transfer.
The 6-4 Soumaré brings immense size to a back line that features fellow center back Carlos Valdes and Okugo as its tallest assets at 6 feet. The defense also features Gabriel Farfan (5-10), Raymon Gaddis (5-9), Costa Rican international Porfirio Lopez (5-11) and local product Chris Albright (6-1).
The impending introduction also puts to bed the rumor that the Union sought longtime U.S. national team defender and current captain Carlos Bocanegra, a member of the Rangers, a Scottish team that is in financial disarray.