Union to honor Soumare trade request

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Union to honor Soumare trade request

CHESTER, Pa. -- Bakary Soumare has had enough of the bench and his time with the Union.

Following the Union’s loss to Sporting Kansas City on March 2, and with his failure to crack the opening day lineup, Soumare immediately requested a trade, according to Union coach John Hackworth on Wednesday.

The Union have agreed to honor his wishes.

“After the game against Sporting KC, Baky came to [Union CEO and Operator Partner] Nick Sakiewicz and then to myself asking to be traded because he is not happy not being a starter,” Hackworth said. “He felt like he was in the prime of his career and that’s what he came here to do. Absolutely respect that and I understand where he’s coming from.

“As of now, Baky is a Philadelphia Union player but I can’t tell you how this is going to go. I’m hopeful we can find a resolution for both us and him. There’s a reason we brought him here and reason he’s still here.”

Acquired as the cornerstone of the Union back line in January, 2012, Soumare, 27, suffered a mix of injury and roster competition, limiting him to just one start in his first year with the Union. With optimism that he would be the Union’s go-to center back in 2013, the 6-foot-4 defender was once again left out of Hackworth’s plans, which favored Amobi Okugo at that position.

“That’s the core thing I want to get across -- the reason Baky’s situation changed from when he arrived to now is that Amobi Okugo has been a revelation,” Hackworth said. “We put him at center back, he was really good last year and continued that. Our recent results (2-1-0) are evidence of that continuing. When you have players playing that well you have tough decisions. Baky or Amobi at center back is the toughest one.”

An interesting caveat of the Soumare situation is that Hackworth did intend to give the Mali national selective starts, in particular a shot against the Colorado Rapids in the Union’s second game. However, asking for a trade one week prior, Soumare made it clear he wasn’t interested in sharing time on the field.

“It changes the coach’s mindset when you have a player who says he’s not happy and wants to be somewhere else,” Hackworth said. “It has a major effect. Baky is a good pro, so we’ve been very honest and up front with each through the whole process. I told him we would be looking to play him against Colorado and asked him it would change anything for him. He said no. He wanted to see if there were any opportunities out there for him. That’s why Baky was on the bench against Colorado.”

Asked what he expects in return for Soumare, Hackworth was unsure.

“We need to make sure we make a good decision for the Philadelphia Union,” the coach said. “I can’t tell you if it would be for money or a trade for a player. We weigh those options and have for the last two weeks. This has been going on.”

Without Soumare in reserve, the Union appear short at center mid. And although the team has admitted to contemplating a depth move, Hackworth says he feels fine with his squad moving forward without Soumare in the mix.

“We have options that we are comfortable with,” Hackworth said. “It doesn’t mean we want to lose Baky but if he did leave, I’d feel comfortable that if something happened to Jeff [Parke] or Amobi, that we could deal with it properly.

“You have a veteran like Chris Albright, who has played as a center back, Sheanon Williams has also played there. We know what he’s capable of. We could move Ray Gaddis back to his natural right back and then we’d look at familiar options at left back. In our locker room already we feel like we have options.”

Jim Curtin downplays Ken Tribbett benching, considers it learning experience

Jim Curtin downplays Ken Tribbett benching, considers it learning experience

CHESTER, Pa. -- Ken Tribbett had a bad night. 

The rookie defender was tabbed for three first-half goals against, causing Union manager Jim Curtin to pull him at halftime for Josh Yaro, in the club’s eventual 3-1 loss to Toronto FC at Talen Energy Stadium (see game story).

“It’s hard, it’s a hard decision,” Curtin said. “Obviously, three goals is unacceptable at home. It’s not all on Ken, we’re a team and we’re together, but at the same time, I think he had a tough half.”

In his club suit, sitting alone in his locker room stall, Tribbett didn’t run from the situation.

“He didn’t say too much, but to just keep my head up,” he said, of Curtin’s halftime response. “[Toronto FC players] are fast, they’re strong and had good finishes. The situation called for a quicker type player in Yaro.” 

Although Tribbett has been mistake-prone since taking over the starter spot from Yaro in late March, Curtin has stuck with his player throughout almost any matchup. But on Saturday, the manager hit a breaking point, leaving the quicker Yaro, another rookie, in charge of marking Toronto FC’s speedy forward Sebastian Giovinco, who scored his club’s first goal of the match. 

“With the speed of Josh, I thought maybe that was a better matchup dealing with Giovinco,” Curtin said. “It’s a hard decision but it’s a young back line that’s still learning every day, getting better every day.”

If Yaro was the better match for Giovinco’s speed, then why wouldn’t Curtin have gone with that lineup for Saturday? The manager's thought process began with the 4-0 shutout win over the New England Revolution last weekend.

“It’s tough to change my thinking after a 4-0 performance,” Curtin said. “It’s tough to change the lineup. It would be over-tinkering, I think. Tonight it didn’t work out. At the same time, we learn from it. We will watch the tape, there’s things we can do better.”

But while the result was poor for Tribbett, the ask was astronomical. Tribbett couldn’t contain Giovinco on Toronto FC’s first goal, lost his mark on the club’s second goal and was unable to dispossess Jozy Altidore on the third goal. Not many people can stop Giovinco and Altidore, which is why Curtin is building up, not beating down his fresh-faced defender.

“As hard as the night was for Ken, you still learn from it,” he said. “You have to. He’ll be fine. You learn in these big games against top forwards.” 

But in the end, Tribbett’s night wasn’t all gloom. Getting on the end of a Tranquillo Barnetta free kick, the 23-year-old buried his second goal of the season off a strong header. That, not the benching, is what he’ll remember most. 

“It felt good, the ball was whipped in with pace so I was able to whip it in as well,” he said. “It was a special one, special for me, the first one at home.”

Tribbett, Union out-classed by Toronto FC in 3-1 loss

Tribbett, Union out-classed by Toronto FC in 3-1 loss

CHESTER, Pa. -- What was supposed to be a memorable home debut for Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies ended in a bitter and lopsided loss, as the Union were steamrolled by high-powered Toronto FC on Saturday, 3-1, at Talen Energy Stadium.

“It just wasn’t our night,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “Credit to Toronto, they are a very good team. Organized, tough to break down. They have guys that punish you if you make a mistake. They were clinical with their chances.”

The loss drops the Union, now 9-9-7, six points behind second-place Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference standings. The Canadian side moves to 11-7-7.

“We still know we’re doing a lot of things the right way,” Curtin said. “We’ve earned 34 points in this league, which is good. We’ll continue to pick up points down the stretch and get into the playoffs.” 

It was an eventful first half for Ken Tribbett that ended in the center back being pulled in favor of Josh Yaro at halftime. 

“The situation called for a quicker type player in Yaro,” Tribbett said.

With one sub down, Curtin tapped Roland Alberg and Fabian Herbers as his final two subs, leaving Davies on the bench, while Bedoya played the full 90.

“I didn’t think I would go 90 tonight but with the circumstances of the situation, I did,” Bedoya said. “It’s good I was able to go 90, get my fitness up.” 

In the 18th minute, Marco Delgado found Sebastien Giovinco with a lead pass that placed the Italian along with Tribbett in the Union box. With ease, Giovinco flew by by the Union defender and fired off a shot that deflected off the right post and in for the 1-0 Toronto lead. 

“It’s easy to play with good players,” said Toronto forward Jozy Altidore. “Seba’s first touch is nothing short of sublime, he puts himself in a good position to make the finish.” 

It was his league-leading 16th goal this season.

“You don’t want to get beat by one pass, but that pass Delgado plays is an unbelievable ball,” Curtin said. “And the way Giovinco handles it without breaking stride is next level stuff.” 

Then it was Tribbett’s turn. In the 24th minute, Tranquillo Barnetta absorbed a foul just yards from the Toronto FC box, giving himself a golden opportunity at goal. The Swiss playmaker placed a perfect free kick that found the head of streaking, 6-foot-2, Tribbett for the equalizer. 

“I’d give more credit to Tranquillo because he put it in the absolute perfect place,” Tribbett said. “All I did was run and put my head on it. Perfect goal.” 

Yet, the match would change for good in the 30th minute, when a Michael Bradley free kick found net off a diving header from Drew Moor, who beat Tribbett and squeaked his attempt between Blake and the right post for the 2-1 advantage. The visitors made it 3-1 in the 44th minute, when Jozy Altidore out-muscled Tribbett, then the entire Union defense before placing a shot past Blake.

“The second and third for me are unacceptable,” Curtin said. “As a back line, we need to do a good job but everyone needs to do a good job, as well.”

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Alejandro Bedoya, Charlie Davies make home debuts

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Alejandro Bedoya, Charlie Davies make home debuts

Union vs. Toronto FC

7:00 p.m. on TCN

Feeling good after a slump-stopping win over the New England Revolution, Alejandro Bedoya and the Union (9-8-7) prepare for an Eastern Conference challenge when they host Sebastian Giovinco and powerful Toronto FC (10-7-7) on Saturday (7:00 p.m., TCN) at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know:

1. Bedoya & Davies coming home
With Bedoya and Charlie Davies coming home for the first time since being acquired two weeks ago, the Union are eager to show the two what home-field advantage at Talen Energy Stadium is all about.

“It’ll be good for our fans to show love to them and embrace them like I know they will,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “Charlie and Alejandro just need to do what they do best. I’m excited for them to get their first opportunity to play in front of this crowd. It’s a special place and it’s been a very good place for us to play this year. The fans have made it a real home-field advantage for us and we need to continue that.”

The pair got off to a flying start in a 4-0 win over the Revs, with Davies collecting an assist. But while Bedoya had a quiet match on the scoresheet, Curtin still noticed game-influencing play. Bedoya was steady and poised, and the Union dominated.

“I thought Alejandro brought a real calming presence to the group in possession,” he said. “He did the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Just to get us out of some tight spots, connect us from front to back.”

And that calmness is all part of the skill set Union fans can expect to see on Saturday.

“He’s a guy that wants the ball under pressure,” Curtin said. “He has the ability to pick his head up, run with the ball when he should run with it, play a forward pass with confidence. He was able to calm us down a little bit in the run of play in New England in a hostile environment.”

Still, Curtin isn’t satisfied quite yet.

“Alejandro is a guy who we’re incredibly happy with,” he said. “It was one game, though.”

2. Red-hot Sapong, Pontius
Much of the Union’s success this season has come from up top in the form of Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong. The pair, who are both two goals away from tying career highs, have combined for six goals in the club’s last five games.

“We’re looking the strongest we’ve looked all season,” Sapong said. “We hope to be firing on all cylinders heading toward the playoffs.”

For Pontius, the production is something the Union expected, even after the dropoff with his former club, D.C. United. The forward maxed out at 12 goals in 2012, and only managed six in the three years before joining the Union.

He currently has 10 goals and five assists.

“Chris is a great professional, a great person and has fit in very nicely with the group,” said Curtin, who mentioned Pontius’ target of 10 goals, 10 assists to end the year. “Down this stretch of the last ten games, he can surpass what his goal was from the beginning of the season. That’s what I want him to do.”

Sapong is in a similar position. With a career high of nine goals, the athletic forward currently has seven, including the opening goal against the Revs on Saturday. However, Sapong, who said he felt good on Wednesday, was forced to leave that match with a possible concussion, putting his eligibility for Saturday in question.

“First and foremost, you only get one brain,” Curtin said. “We don’t mess around with head injuries. It looks like he’ll be fine for the weekend and cleared to play. We were smart with it, I thought. Hopefully he’s ready for the weekend.”

3. Stopping Giovinco
To stop Toronto FC, any club must first stop Giovinco, who leads MLS with 15 goals. The Italian, widely considered as the best player in the league, can destroy the opposition easily and without breaking a sweat.

“I’m glad I didn’t play when he was in the league,” Curtin said. “He’s a handful and as dangerous a guy as there is right now. You try to be physical with him and he can draw a foul, he’s strong enough to hold the ball and go by you. He can beat you in so many different ways and that’s what makes dealing with him so tough.”

Yet, while Giovinco may be the best scorer in the league, the Union have a potential equalizer in goalkeeper Andre Blake, who has been known to steal games for his club.

Giovinco leads MLS with 128 shots. Blake is tied for seventh in saves with 74.

“Giovinco is a great player, we know that,” Blake said. “It’s going to take a team effort to shut him down, the guys know that. We’ll have to work together to do that job.”

4. Keep an eye on
Toronto FC - Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to say Giovinco here, but Altidore is on fire with three goals and an assist in his last four games. That includes an absolute stunner of a goal against the Houston Dynamo this past Sunday.

Union - Tranquillo Barnetta: Moving from the No. 8 to No. 10 position on Saturday, Barnetta flourished on the ball, suffering seven fouls. That’s 13 in his last two games, accompanied by a goal and six shots over the same span. He hasn’t just been good, he’s been a game-changer for the Union. “He’s our engine,” Curtin said. “When he gets on the ball, he’s dangerous. He deserves a heck of a lot more credit than he gets in this league.”

5. This and that
• The Union are 6-5-4 against Toronto FC all time and a dominant 4-1-2 at home.

• Momentum of a lopsided win hasn’t helped the Union much in 2016. The Union are 0-1-2 after wins of two-plus goals this season. Of course, they defeated the Revs, 4-0, last weekend.

• Brian Carroll (foot) and Maurice Edu (knee) are both on the cusp of returning to the Union midfield. But they aren’t quite there yet. “Brian is bouncing back quicker than we thought, which is good,” Curtin said. “He’ll hopefully be back on Monday in training. [Edu] is fully involved in training now, it’s just a matter of time.”

• If the Union want to contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, a win on Saturday is crucial. Toronto FC has 37 points in 24 games, while the Union have 34 in 24 games. A Union win would also give the two clubs an identical record of 10-8-7.