Soumares Role Could Be a Backline Bellwether for Union in 2013

Soumares Role Could Be a Backline Bellwether for Union in 2013

By Steve Moore

Do you know who Bakary Soumare is?

If you’re a dedicated Union fan, you know he’s
the (really) big defender with lingering knee problems who barely played
after signing last summer (one league start). If you’re a casual fan
who didn’t pay much attention in August and September as the floundering
Union played out the string, then you’re likely still trying to pronounce
it.

He’s also the reason the Union don’t have a first-round
pick in this month’s MLS SuperDraft.

Instead of picking fifth and snapping up one of five
Generation Adidas players – players who sign with MLS before the draft
to pricier contracts than other rookies and don’t count against the
salary cap – manager John Hackworth and the Union will sit out the
first round before picking 26th and 29th overall.

The team shipped its first-round pick to Vancouver
so it could move to the top of the allocation order and sign Soumare,
6-foot-4 center back who now must fight for a starting spot with new
signing Jeff Parke (just called up to the U.S. National Team camp),
2012 MLS All-Star Carlos Valdes and one of last year’s lone bright
spots in midfielder-turned-defender Amobi Okugo.

Soumare’s role coming out of next month’s training
camp in Florida could provide some early insight into Hackworth’s
plans. If he’s healthy and competes for a center back spot, Okugo
could move forward into a holding midfielder position. The 21-year-old
(and No. 6 overall pick in 2010) was great last year alongside Valdes,
but it was his awareness and positioning that impressed the most –
skills that easily translate into his more natural midfield position.

As for Parke, the Abington native will turn 31 in
March, and has been one of the league’s top center backs for years,
most recently with Seattle. In a (read: my) perfect world, he would
start alongside Valdes in the middle, with Sheanon Williams locked in
on the right. Gabriel Farfan played on the left much of last year, but
often seemed lost, and may be better suited in the midfield or, ideally,
as a utility piece off the bench. Part of me thinks the starting left
back for the March 2 opener against Sporting Kansas City (get your long
johns ready) is not yet on the roster.

So, unless the whispered
Valdes-loan/sale-to-Colombia
turns out to be true,
Soumare seems to be nothing more than a big man taking up a seat on
the bench.

Depth is great, and real competition for starting
spots is even better. But defenders almost always go 90 minutes (barring
injury), and this is not Europe, where teams can be involved in four
competitions and play two or three games in a week.

With the semi-uncertainty about Valdes’ future
– reports are out there that Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe wants
him on a loan (or more)
– Soumare could possibly
still find a steady role with the Union. But in the small-salary world
of MLS, Soumare’s $240,000 base salary is a steep price
to pay for a little bit of defensive depth (especially when Freddy Adu
is making $400,000 or more).

Hackworth and CEO Nick Sakiewicz have spent most of
the winter cleaning up from the disaster that was Peter Nowak’s ego
– both on the field, and in the minds of fans and paying customers.
So far, it seems to be working, as the mindset on my Union-heavy Twitter
timeline (@smoore1117) is closer to the excitement of 2011
than the expletive-laden vitriol of 2012.

Soumare’s place in the squad may not be as sexy
a topic as the return of Sebastien Le Toux, the signing of Conor Casey,
the team’s inability to score goals, or the enigma that is Freddy
Adu. But it could prove to be an early indicator of the team’s fate
in 2013.

*

Thanks to Enrico and The Level for letting me help out with Union
coverage this year. I’ve been a Union season ticket holder from the
start, and, like many “soccer nerds”, we are very particular about
news coverage of the sport and our team. This site has treated the Union
fairly from the start, and not as some novelty act. I hope to provide
intelligent soccer talk for the die-hards, while also helping the casual
fan keep up with the ins-and-outs at PPL Park. Feel free to compliment,
critique or criticize. Just promise you’ll try a little harder than
“no one cares about soccer,” OK?

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

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NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: NBC Sports Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

Patriots advance to 8th Super Bowl in Brady, Belichick era

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USA Today Images

Patriots advance to 8th Super Bowl in Brady, Belichick era

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Give `em a hand: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl.

Brady shook off a hand injury and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining, rallying the Patriots to a 24-20 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship Sunday.

Brady, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after hurting it during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered.

And, with the game — and possibly the season — on the line, the Patriots star came up big again.

"I've had a lot worse," Brady said. "I didn't know that on Wednesday. It was a crazy injury. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was a little scary. Then I started getting some confidence and today we did just enough to win."

Brady finished 26 of 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots (15-3), who'll play the winner of Sunday night's game between Minnesota and Philadelphia in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

It's the eighth Super Bowl appearance for Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have won five times — including last year's 34-28 overtime rally against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jaguars (12-7) led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold against the defending champions.

Jacksonville — looking to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history -- had one more shot, but Bortles' throw on fourth-and-15 to Dede Westbrook was knocked away by Stephon Gilmore.

The Patriots then ran out the clock, with Dion Lewis' 18-yard scamper with 90 seconds remaining sealing the victory. And they did it mostly without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left the game late in the first half and didn't return.

Brady's hand was the most-scrutinized body part in Boston since the quarterback's right ankle before the 2008 Super Bowl and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's right ankle tendon — the bloody sock — in the 2004 playoffs.

Brady was listed as questionable after he hurt his right hand during practice earlier in the week. He was limited Wednesday, sat out Thursday and was limited again Friday because of the injury.

That caused some panic among the Patriots faithful.

Turns out, it was nothing to fret about.

Brady came out for warmups without a glove on his hand, and he came out throwing. He completed his first six passes — including a 20-yarder to Amendola on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 30 — for 57 yards to march the Patriots down the field. The drive stalled when Brady was sacked by Dante Fowler Jr., and New England settled for Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal.

A wide-open Marcedes Lewis gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown catch from Blake Bortles, who was 5 for 5 for 66 yards on an impressive and efficient seven-play, 76-yard drive.

Leonard Fournette gave Jacksonville a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter with a 4-yard TD run, hushing the crowd at Gillette Stadium.

The Jaguars made some big mistakes that hurt them just before halftime. Bortles completed a 12-yard pass to Lewis on third-and-7 from the Patriots 44, but Jacksonville was called for delay of game -— after New England called a timeout.

That wiped out a first down, and Bortles was sacked by Adam Butler on the next play to force a punt.

With just over two minutes left before halftime, New England's offense took over and the fans chanted "Bra-dy! Bra-dy!"

And their quarterback delivered — with some help from the Jaguars on two long penalties.

On first-and-10 from the Patriots 40, Brady threw a long pass for Gronkowski, who was injured when he got popped by Barry Church just as the ball was arriving. Church was called for unnecessary roughness, putting the ball at Jacksonville's 45.

A.J. Bouye was called for pass interference on the next play on an incomplete throw for Brandin Cooks. The 32-yard penalty put the ball at the Jaguars 13. After a 12-yard catch by Cooks, James White ran it in from the 1 to make it 14-10 with 55 seconds left.

Josh Lambo gave Jacksonville a 17-10 lead 4:37 into the third quarter with a 54-yard field goal. He added a 43-yarder 8 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game.

But Brady & Co. were just getting started.