Explosive freshman Saad leads 'M' to overtime win with hat trick

Torehan Sharman/Daily
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Daily Sports Writer
Published September 22, 2010

Just when it looked as if the Michigan men’s soccer team was headed to another overtime draw, freshman forward Soony Saad abruptly ended the speculation.

His game-winning header came at 1:41 into the first overtime, giving him his first Michigan hat trick and cementing the team’s first victory in three games, a 3-2 win over Kentucky last night.

Michigan (4-1-3) showed its determination from the start, as Saad’s first goal came just 3:13 into the first period and marked just the second goal scored in the first half all season for the Wolverines.

The score came off a pass from senior midfielder Justin Meram that Saad drilled from 18 yards out into the lower left corner of the Kentucky goal. Meram’s aggressive play all game earned him two assists on the night.

But despite taking a 1-0 lead, the Wolverine offense was stifled all half. Michigan headed to halftime with just four shots and only one on goal — the lowest in both categories in one period all season.

Michigan gave up the equalizer in the 46th minute, as a Kentucky ball slipped past the Wolverines’ back line and redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Blais to tie the game at one.

The match was one of the most physical and aggressive games the team has played all season, as Kentucky picked up seven yellow cards. The pitch was slick from rain and both teams were forced to grind it out from the start.

“There were a lot of tackles out there,” freshman defender Ezekiel Harris said. “You couldn’t be in the game today if you didn’t want to get dirty.”

Both teams netted their second goals in regulation, with Michigan’s coming from Saad in the 74th minute off a free kick. Saad led the way with six total shots and three on goal.

The Wildcats converted a corner in the last minute of regulation to force overtime, something the Wolverines are all too familiar with this season. But this overtime period was short-lived, as Saad finished the game with his third goal of the night to lead the Wolverines into Big Ten play on a high note.

“This game was vital,” Saad said. “No one wants to go in with their heads down before they play a big rival, especially Ohio State. That being said, the way we won today was an eye-opener, and also it was a little warm-up for the hard tackles and the hard game we face on Saturday.”

With eight total shots on goal, the Michigan offense knows it needs to start converting the opportunities it creates, especially on corner kicks. The Wolverines took eight corner kicks against Kentucky, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them.

Playing host to conference rival Ohio State on Saturday, Michigan is riding the positives from yesterday's game — especially Soony’s hot foot — until kickoff.

“I think good teams have to find ways to win games,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “And this is a team that is starting to figure that out.”