Lebanese-American Soony Saad was recently named the 2009-10 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Major League Soccerâ€™s Alecko Eskandarian showed up at Soonyâ€™s school, Dearborn High near Detroit, in May to present Saad with the award. Saad thus became eligible for the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year Award, which will be awarded prior to the ESPN â€œESPYâ€ awards later in July.
â€œItâ€™s an absolutely incredible experience to win this award and be among the same company of great players like Alecko, Claudio Reyna, Dwight Howard,â€ said Saad in a phone interview following the presentation. Eskandarian won the award in 1999-2000, former U.S. National Soccer Team captain Reyna won in 1990-91 and NBA All-Star Howard won the award in 2003-04.
In his senior season at Dearborn, Saad set a single-season state high school record for goals in a season with a ridiculous total of 76. A first team All-American selection by ESPN RISE and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American honoree in 2009, Saad was also the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year. He was also named the Michigan Soccer Coaches Associationâ€™s â€œMr. Soccerâ€ this past fall. Saad completed his high school career with a state-record 172 goals and 51 assists.
â€œOnce every 10 or 20 years, someone comes through Michigan with his kind of ability,â€ said Lars Richters, head coach of rival Livonia Stevenson High. â€œSoony Saad has been the best player in Michigan since he was five years old. Heâ€™s a very intelligent player, he seems to be a step ahead of the game in terms of thinking. The unique skill he has is that heâ€™s a great goal-scorer, that being the toughest technique of the whole sport.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a prolific scorer and has been all of his career,â€ said University of Michigan coach Steve Burns. â€œHeâ€™s one of those players that converts goals at a high rate and those types of players are invaluable in soccer.â€
His social accomplishments are numerous as well. He is involved in the literacy-outreach program at William Ford Elementary in Dearborn. He helped with the development of the audio-visual initiatives department at the Islamic Center of America mosque, helping to produce thrice-weekly sermons for broadcast online as well as a faith-based allegory video. He is a member of the Youth Muslim Association (YMA) and the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) of the Muslim American Society. And, he is an events volunteer for the Islamic Center of America.
Saad received scholarship offers from UCLA and Akron but chose the University of Michigan where heâ€™ll be reunited on the pitch with his brother Hamoody, a sophomore midfielder for the Wolverines.
â€œAfter my brother committed two years ago I started thinking about it because I wanted to play with him again,â€ said Saad. Saadâ€™s summer training will include a trip to Europe summer before he joins the Wolverines in August. He hopes to contribute to the rise of a program which, entering its twelfth year as a varsity sport, is still in its relative infancy.â€œWho can argue with the academic standards and the standards of the athletic department?â€ Saad said. â€œI want to make Michigan soccer be mentioned with the likes of Michigan football and Michigan swimming.â€
Saadâ€™s summer touring schedule will in fact prevent him from attending the Gatorade award presentation. But that is just another glaring example of his commitment to his craft.