It’s important to remember that Soony Saad is only 20 years old.
It feels like he must be older, because Saad is now in his third season with Sporting Kansas City, who won the rights to the former University of Michigan star via lottery draft July 5, 2011.
But Saad, a native of Dearborn, Mich., won’t reach the legal drinking age until Aug. 17.
Still, he’s already becoming a key player for Sporting KC, which off to a 3-1-2 start in pursuit of a third straight Eastern Conference regular-season crown.
Subbing on in the 83rd minute Friday against D.C. United, Saad worked over a couple defenders in the left channel six minutes after replacing Benny Feilhaber and slotted a pass from the end line back to Claudio Bieler for the game-winning goal.
“It’s nothing new,” said forward C.J. Sapong, who also is in his third season with Sporting KC. “You can ask anybody in this locker room. It’s nothing new to us. He’s just waiting for his opportunity.”
It looks like that opportunity has arrived.
Saad, a forward, already has five appearances in six the club’s six games this season, including a start March 23 at New England.
The more comfortable he gets, the more Saad’s contribution should grow.
“I foresee him as somebody who scores a lot of goals in this league and makes things happen,” Sapong said. “He’s a shifty player and a very clinical finisher as well.”
Saad was the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy player of the year in 2008 and later became the national Gatorade boys soccer player of the year for 2009-10 after scoring 76 goals as a high school senior.
He led the NCAA in scoring and broke the Wolverines’ single-season record with 19 goals in his only college campaign.
Saad appeared in four games after joining the team midseason in 2011, scoring his first MLS goal in a 3-1 win against Portland as a late-game sub the day he turned 19 in his debut with the club.
A few months later, Saad added a goal against Chivas Guadalajara during an international friendly.
Saad made nine more appearances, including starts at Seattle and Columbus last summer. He also scored twice in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round against Orlando City SC
Every step along the way, Saad has shown flashes of goal-scoring brilliance, which suggest he’s only beginning to scratch the surface of his talent.
“This is my third year in the league, and I feel like, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized my role,” Saad said. “Right now, my role is to come in and to make an impact any way I can, whether it’s defending a lead or trying to score a couple goals.”
Despite Saad’s relative youth, coach Peter Vermes already has incredible faith in his ability.
“When Soony went in, I told him I thought he’d get a goal,” Vermes said after the 1-0 win against D.C. “I didn’t think he’d get an assist.”
It’s all part of Saad’s progress, but it’s important to remember that he’s young.
“I wouldn’t say he’s coming of age yet — maybe on the field,” Sapong said with a laugh.
Of course, Sporting KC can also feed off Saad’s youthful exuberance.
“He has a young soul, a free spirit, and he’s just trying to prove himself and trying to get better every day,” Sapong said. “It’s one of those things that you admire. For me, it reminds me of the youthfulness I had when I was his age. It gives you a little more motivation and gives you an edge when you’re in practice and he can make you laugh but also can help your team win.”