Michigan soccer commit Soony Saad named Gatorade National Player of the Year
Thursday began as a relatively normal day for University of Michigan soccer commitment Soony Saad. He walked to his fifth period Language Arts class at Dearborn High School, just like he does every day, not expecting anything out of the ordinary.
When one his favorite professional soccer players, two-time MLS all star Alecko Eskandarian, greeted him in the classroom instead of his classmates, he started to suspect something was up.
Well, he was right. Eskandarian wasn’t there to tune up on his grammar. He was there to present Saad with the 2009-10 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year award.
“It’s an absolutely incredible experience to win this award and be among the same company of great players like Alecko, Claudio Reyna, Dwight Howard,” said Saad in a phone interview following the presentation. Eskandarian won the award in 1999-2000, former U.S. National Team captain Reyna won in 1990-91 and NBA All-Star Howard won the award for basketball in 2003-04.
Saad is the second boys soccer player from Michigan, along with 2005-06 winner Eric Alexander (Portage Central), to receive the award and is now eligible for the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year Award, which will be awarded prior to the ESPYs in July.
“When I received this award in 2000, it was a really significant moment for me, so it felt great to surprise Soony with the news and invite him into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports,” Eskandarian said in a press release.
In his senior season at Dearborn, Saad set a single-season MHSAA record for goals in a season with 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. The Michigan Soccer Coaches Association’s Mr. Soccer this past fall, Saad concluded his high school career with a state-record 172 goals along with 51 assists.
“He’s a prolific scorer and has been all of his career,” said Michigan coach Steve Burns. “He’s one of those players that converts goals at a high rate and those types of players are invaluable in soccer.”
After considering offers from UCLA and Akron, Saad chose Michigan where he’ll be reunited on the pitch with his brother, a sophomore midfielder for the Wolverines.
“After my brother committed two years ago I started thinking about it because I wanted to play with him again,” said Saad, who looks forward to playing in the newly constructed 1,800 seat UM Soccer Stadium as well. “I’ve seen pictures online and it's exactly what we needed. It’s not the Big House or anything, but its perfect and hopefully fans will turn out and cheers us on.”
Saad’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.
“Who can argue with the academic standards and the standards of the athletic department?” Saad said. “I want to make Michigan soccer be mentioned with the likes of Michigan football and Michigan swimming.”
Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 734-623-2565. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.