Soony Saad sets sight on strong second season with Sporting

Striker soaks up support, experience from 2011

Soony Saad with fans

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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.

GOAL: Saad caps debut with a goal

“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.”

Even, he said, when they rib him about his popularity.

“They like to tease me,” he said. “But those guys are really family now. It’s comforting to have the older guys to look up to.”

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 ". 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.”