KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Four days after Soony Saad cap-tied to the Lebanese national team, he got yet another reminder of the Middle East's instability.
Sporting Kansas City's young Michigan-born winger was in his Beirut hotel room on Tuesday, with an Asian Cup qualifier against Iran set for later that day, when two suicide bombers set off blasts near the Iranian embassy. The attack killed 23 people and injured nearly 150.
“I was on my laptop at the time, actually,” Saad told reporters on Thursday, after returning Wednesday to Kansas City ahead of Saturday's Eastern Conference Championship second leg against Houston (7:30 pm ET; NBCSN, UDN, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada). “I didn't know really what was going on. I heard these noises – it was pretty loud outside the hotel – and didn't really know what it was, kind of carried on with what I was doing.
"And all of a sudden, I just randomly got up and looked outside, saw an ambulance and fire trucks. I looked at my phone and all my family were texting me: 'Are you OK?' 'Did you see what happened?' I put two and two together. It was kind of scary at the moment.”
Saad wasn't so much concerned for his own safety as for that of a loved one, who he later found out was not among the casualties.
“I was worried about my grandma, who lives right on the same street as that explosion,” he said. “It's very sad. A lot lost their lives, and a lot are injured. I'm glad to be home.”
After a team meeting, Tuesday's match went on, with World Cup-bound Iran beating Les Cedres 4-1 in an empty stadium. Saad, who went 74 minutes in a scoreless away draw to Kuwait the previous Thursday, did not figure in the match.
“I'm not sure if the match should have even been played, after what had happened around the Iranian embassy,” Saad said. “But we went out and we carried on.”
Did he ever stop to wonder what a young man from the suburbs of Detroit was doing in the middle of such a volatile region?
“Sometimes you think that,” he said. “It makes you think about life. There's more to life than just playing soccer. But I went to Lebanon and to Kuwait to play with the national team and gain experience and to represent the country. And I felt like I did that well.”
Sporting manager Peter Vermes said the news was cause for concern on a level far deeper than sports.
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“At the end, there's a place where it goes beyond that,” Vermes said on Thursday during the club's weekly news conference. “I have an unbelievable connection to all the guys, based on the way that I feel and the fact that you go through a lot over the course of a season.
"There's a lot of emotion that goes into it. There's a lot of ups and downs to a season, and you just can't help but connect with those guys. This was obviously an extremely frightening situation on many levels.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.