KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Soony Saad was the first Sporting Kansas City player to score a goal in March – but that was for his national team, not for a club that now waits for Saad to get back from a groin strain.
The young winger scored in Lebanon's 5-2 away win over Thailand on March 5, only to see Les Cedres eliminated from Asian Cup qualifying on goal differential. He has missed all three of Sporting's matches so far this year, two in MLS and one in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and Sporting have set no timetable for his return.
“It was an issue before I went to Lebanon,” Saad told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I felt OK to play, and then I just had to deal with it while I was there. I didn't make it worse by playing, but I'm just being cautious over here.”
Manager Peter Vermes isn't sure that Saad didn't aggravate the strain while on national team duty, though.
“He got injured here, in one of our games last year, but then he went on the national team trip and played,” Vermes said. “Then he injured it much more there and then played on it, and then came back here injured. You can't do everything. At some point, you've got to make a decision. Either you can play or you can't play.”
And when Saad took the call-up and played for Lebanon, Vermes said, that gave the national team's staff the impression that he was healthy enough for match action.
“Tell me any national team that wants to take a player who's injured,” he said. “So he must have been able to play when he was there. If you go there and play, I'm assuming you're not injured. When you come back, you're injured.”
But while acknowledging the concerns any club coach has when a player goes on national team duty, Vermes said he doesn't allow himself to dwell on them.
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“You're always wondering, 'Are they going to stay healthy? Are they going to get injured?' But there's nothing you can do about it,” Vermes said. “I have no influence on that at all. After a while, it's wasted energy. When guys go, I have to stay focused on the guys we have here.”
The 21-year-old Saad, who had career highs of four goals and four assists in 23 MLS appearances last year, said he's close to being able to return.
“I'm very anxious,” he said. “I can't wait to get back out there. It should be very soon.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.