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Interview: Ansan Greeners' Soony Saad

Ansan Greeners have had a busy transfer window, with a number of fresh faces coming into the club ahead of their 2020 campaign. One signing that particularly caught the eye was that of Lebanese international, Soony Saad. Ansan Greeners columnist, James Walsh spoke to the Green Wolves’ newest addition about his switch to the Wa~ Stadium. (Image via GreenersFC.com

Ansan supporters were thrilled by the announcement of Soony Saad’s recent arrival, and are eager to see the Lebanese international make his first-team bow as a Green Wolf. However, K League 2 is presently suspended due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, but that hasn’t dampened the 27-year-old’s delight of becoming a Greener, “It’s been amazing so far adjusting to life in Korea, especially in Ansan. I’ve wanted to play in Korea for a long time and now that I have the opportunity, it’s important that I embrace all aspects of life here. I’ve settled down nicely and have found places to eat, shop, and have a good time. When life goes back to normal from the coronavirus, I’ll be able to enjoy more of this beautiful country. I’m getting to know my teammates and the city, and I’m excited to start the season.”

The self-confessed Liverpool FC fanatic is relishing the challenge of filling the void left by the departure of now-Busan IPark centre-forward, Gustavo Vintecinco, “My targets for the season are to score and assist as many goals as I can. I know I can help the team in many ways, so if we are winning, I know I am doing my job.”

Saad was born in Wayne County, Michigan, and looks back on his childhood with fondness, “I am very blessed to come from a family that is close. We all grew up close in age and talk to each other almost every day. My parents sacrificed a lot for us, so if I can someday do that for my children, I would feel like I’ve repaid them back.”

The creative playmaker attributes his love for his profession to his dad, who he describes as the best manager that he has played under, “My father introduced me to soccer at a very young age. I am the youngest of four siblings and he was our coach. He has an incredible eye for the game and has a different mentality than anybody I have ever met. If it wasn’t for my parents, especially my father, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Soony’s brother also had a significant influence on his youth development, “My brother had more talent than I did, so I kept trying to improve, and he really helped me become better and train when we were younger.”

Saad in action for Sporting Kansas City. (Image via SportingKC.com
The 5’10” winger played in Major League Soccer (MLS) for Sporting Kansas City (SKC) in two separate spells at Children’s Mercy Park in 2011-2014 and in 2017, which saw him face some of the biggest names in the sport, “I’ve played against many great players; David Beckham, Thierry Henry, David Villa. The one that really stood out was Sebastian Giovinco.”

The Lebanese attacker recorded a total of eight goals and seven assists in MLS as a Sporting KC player and picked up U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup winner’s medals in his time playing under Peter Vermes, who is currently the longest-serving head coach in the top-flight of the American game, after taking over at the club in 2009. SKC will always hold a special place in Saad's heart, “The trophies that I won in my time at Sporting Kansas City in MLS [are the highlights of his career thus far]. We won the league and the FA Cup, and the feeling of being crowned champions was incredible. Hopefully, I can have different highlights by the end of my career!”.

Saad enjoyed a real purple patch on loan at Pattaya United. (Image via PattayaMail.com
Ansan gaffer, Kim Gil-sik will have his fingers crossed that his new offensive recruit can replicate the kind of form that he showed during his brief stint playing in Thai League 1 (T1). After finding first-team opportunities limited at BEC Tero Sasana owing to injury in 2015, Saad was sent on loan by the Fire Dragons to T1 new boys, Pattaya United the following year. It transpired that coming up with the goods in South East Asia was a completely contrasting test to that presented by the demands of North American soccer, “Playing in Thailand was a lot different in many ways. I was a foreign player, so I had to produce a lot more for the team. The league was also not as physical, but very technical. Overall, it was a great experience and I think it helped prepare me for this challenge in Ansan.” Despite the clashing styles, Saad enjoyed one of the most fruitful periods of his domestic professional career to date as a Blue Dolphin, registering nine goals and ten assists in the division in just twenty-eight appearances, helping United to a credible twelfth-placed finish in the process.

Saad on international duty for the Cedars. (Image via SportingKC.com
The American-born forward represented the States at both under-17 and under-20 level, but Saad, whose father is Lebanese, decided to play for the Cedars as a senior international and was handed his debut by Theo Bucker in 2013, and made an instant impact, scoring against Oman in a 1-1 friendly draw in Doha. Pulling on the red jersey means a lot to the tricky wideman, who feels privileged to turn out for 'the pearl of the Middle East', “It’s an incredible feeling to represent Lebanon on the international stage. Although I was born in America, I feel so much pride and honor when I represent Lebanon.”

The former Kansas man has since gone on to earn several further caps, and bagged his first competitive international goal in the Lebanese Republic's emphatic 5-2 victory over Thailand in a 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Bangkok in 2014, and then got on the scoresheet again for the Western Asian nation in a 2-0 friendly win over Afghanistan in Tripoli two years later.

The pacy striker believes that Liviu Ciobotariu's Lebanese national side, who currently lie in third in Group H in Asia’s World Cup qualification standings, have an outside chance of sealing a place at Qatar 2022, “I believe that it’s a possibility. South Korea is in our group and we need to get some good results in our upcoming matches. We have the talent to qualify, we just need to come together and get ourselves ready tactically.”

The Green Wolves' latest acquisition hails from the same county as legendary business magnate and founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, and the Wa~ faithful will certainly be hoping that the Dearborn native will be the driving force behind the Greeners' promotion push this season.

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