Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth has hailed the performances of 22-year-old Amobi Okugo, and admitted that his continued development could mean that Bakary Soumare is surplus to requirements.
Hackworth cited the emergence of Okugo in central defense as the reason for the 27-year-old's drop to the bench. Soumare arrived in June 2012 around the same time that Okugo, originally a defensive midfielder, was being used as a makeshift defender. He formed an effective partnership with Carlos Valdes, as an injury-hit Soumare made just one appearance, and impressed Hackworth enough in preseason to establish himself as the preferred option alongside Jeff Parke.
"Coming into preseason, it was my thought that (Soumare) would be a starting center back for us," Hackworth said in a press conference on Wednesday. "There are certain guys we thought would be number one on our depth chart going in. Baky was one of those players.
"The reason that Baky's situation changed from when he arrived here to now is that Amobi Okugo has been a revelation. When you have players that are playing that well, you have some tough decisions."
Hackworth then revealed that Soumare had requested a transfer following the Union's opening day loss to Sporting Kansas City - a game Soumare watched from the bench - and said he would be working to find the best possible outcome for the club.
"I can't tell you yet how that's going to go and I would be hopeful that we can find a resolution that's good for us and him.
"We have options that we're very comfortable with currently," said Hackworth, citing defenders Chis Albright and Sheanon Williams. "If he did leave today I would feel absolutely comfortable that we could deal with it properly.
"Baky is still an important part of our team right now and will remain until something happens."