Soony Saad working his way onto scoresheet for Sporting KC, into Peter Vermes' good graces
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Soony Saad remembers the conversation well. So does Peter Vermes.
It was late spring, Saad wasn't playing as often as he had hoped, and the young forward wore a frustrated expression as he waited to talk to Sporting Kansas City's manager after a training session.
The two spoke quietly for a while on the pitch, in a scene Vermes has seen repeatedly from both sides of the player-coach dynamic.
“Sometimes those discussions are difficult, but at the same time I think they're part of the growing process for the player,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I've been through them all. I get them. I'm not going to say it makes them any easier for the player, but it makes me understand a little more what they're going through.
"Even some of my staff members say they're amazed sometimes at how patient I am with certain players and their development. But I think you have to be in what we do.”
Vermes counseled patience that day, told Saad that his opportunity would come. And with three goals in his last two matches, after a league scoring drought of almost two years, Saad is making the most of that chance.
“He just said to keep working hard – that for whatever reason it is, coaches have their own philosophy, their own decisions and not to look too far into it,” Saad said on Tuesday. “We were going to have a lot of games coming up and he was going to use me, and just to keep working hard. At first it made no sense to me, but coaches have plans and I'm glad this one is working out so far.”
Vermes wasn't upset that Saad wanted more playing time, after falling out of the 18 for a long stretch beginning in mid-April – after he assisted on Claudio Bieler's late game-winner in a 1-0 win over D.C. United on April 5. But he also wanted to make sure the young forward was still preparing himself to be match-ready.
“This isn't just Soony. It's any player,” he said. “There's nothing wrong with them being upset or being angry about not playing. The worst thing they can do is allow that to affect their ability to work and train and perform. Because now when you get your chance and don't do well, you hurt yourself.”
Saad acknowledged reaching that point, and having to fight through it.
“I feel like when you're not playing, you start to kind of – I wouldn't say lose focus, but you start to just kind of go through the motions,” he said. “Even though you still work hard in training, you start to think, 'Oh, I'm never going to get the chance.' But I stuck with it, and coach seasoned me well to just be persistent. I'm here right now, and I'm going to keep working not to lose it.”
Even if that means someone else is scoring the goals.
“I love to score goals,” he said. “I think that's one of my best attributes, but I don't go into the game thinking, 'Hey, I've got to score a goal,' and that's all I'm focused on. I'm just focused on doing my job, offensively and defensively, and if I'm in the right spots then good things will happen.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.