Sporting Kansas City's Soony Saad snaps drought, puts doubters to rest

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – When Sporting Kansas City recalled Dom Dwyer from loan to Orlando City SC, there were some who wondered aloud whether Soony Saad might be the next one headed to USL Pro for a stint with the Lions.

Saad's play since then has silenced that talk – and his brace in Saturday night's 3-0 win over a sluggish and shorthanded Toronto FC side showed how right Sporting were to keep him in MLS.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Saad, who broke a league scoring drought of nearly two years with a low shot from just outside the area in the 21st minute and added a putback of Graham Zusi's saved shot in the 51st. “It felt right, especially hearing the crowd erupt.”

READ: Saad lifts Sporting Kansas City past listless Toronto FC

And while the two goals set up differently, both showcased two of Saad's strengths: his booming foot and his closing speed.

“Soony's first goal showed exactly what he can do,” manager Peter Vermes said in the postmatch news conference. “He can find his spot, and when he hits the ball he can overpower a goalkeeper, he hits it so hard. It was a great finish.

“The second goal was very opportunistic,” Vermes went on. “We're always talking about getting runners in the box, and we had those when the opportunity fell to us. He was in the right place at the right time.”

The goals weren't Saad's only contributions, though. He also started the sequence that led to Claudio Bieler's tap-in in the 63rd minute, drew a red-card foul on TFC defender Reggie Lambe in the 56th and provided both spot-on passing and tenacious high-pressure defense all night on the overmatched Reds.

“We all know he has a fantastic shot,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. “He proved once again that he's a valuable player for this team.”

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Saad, who came out of the University of Michigan early to turn pro, came to Sporting on a weighted lottery draw in the summer of 2011. He scored on his league debut, against Portland on Aug. 17, 2011, but had only two competitive goals – both in an early-round U.S. Open Cup match in 2012 – since then.

But after appearing in only nine games with two starts last season, Saad has increasingly found form and favor this year. The fledgling Lebanese international, who scored on his debut in a friendly against Oman in May already has four starts in 10 league outings this year – and two assists to go along with his brace from Saturday night.

“He's been working and he's been hitting form,” Vermes said. “It's like I told him when he got his first opportunity to start: 'You don't have to go out today, and you're only going to get one of these opportunities. You're going to have the opportunities. We're going to be patient with those games. 'And credit to him, I think he's gotten better. And today, I think he just found the opportunities that he's accustomed to, and that's why he scored.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.