After only half a season at Livestrong Sporting Park, Soony Saad already has made a big impression on Sporting Kansas City’s fans.
Between the big followings on social media, having his own chant in the Cauldron (Sporting’s raucous supporters section) and the hand-lettered “MARRY ME SOONY” signs in the stands, it’s safe to say the young forward is feeling the love.
Now, he wants to make as big a splash on the pitch as he has in the hearts of the faithful.
“Coming as a kid straight out of college, it was incredible to see the support I was getting on Facebook and Twitter,” Saad, who turned pro after one season at Michigan, told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “I really like it and I want to give them something on the field. I’m going to be working my tail off this season, because I want to show my appreciation for the fact that they support me and the club.”
For Saad to do that, he’ll have to find playing time in a crowded striker corps.
C.J. Sapong is coming off a Rookie of the Year season and a stint with the US national team. Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara scored nine goals each in 2011. And as if that weren’t enough, first-round SuperDraft pick Dom Dwyer scored a hat trick in Tuesday’s 5-1 exhibition win over FC Tucson.
“Dom’s very hungry to score,” Saad said. “Teal and C.J. are ready to pick up again, and Kei is also a great goalscorer. I’m really excited to be playing with these guys.”
Saad, whose rights Sporting won in a weighted midseason lottery, scored his lone league goal on his debut – which also happened to be his 19th birthday. That score was a deflected fluke, but at Michigan and in Sporting’s training sessions, Saad has shown a booming ball from distance that could be his key to gaining minutes in manager Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 system.
“I’ve played right underneath the forwards before, and coach always tells me to let it rip and use my shot,” said Saad, who once connected from 67 yards in a college game. “Whenever I have a chance, that’s what I’m looking to do.”
In the meantime, he’s still learning the ins and outs of the 4-3-3.
“I’m just in a position of seeing where I fit in,” he said. “I’m looking to compete and show coach that I’m ready to play and do a lot of work for the team. We’re not just trying to score goals. We’re trying to defend well, keep the ball and close out games – but the first line of defense is offense.”