Michigan soccer fans may never see record-setting freshman striker Soony Saad step onto the pitch at the U-M Soccer Complex again, but they might catch him on TV.
According to reports, Saad has signed a contract with the MLS and will enter the lottery draft on Tuesday.
Saad, the younger brother of Hamoody Saad, a sophomore midfielder for the Wolverines, spent the past semester testing the waters of professional soccer in Europe after carrying Michigan to its first-ever College Cup appearance in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Reports linked him on trial with several teams, but most notable with Belgian giant RSC Anderlecht.
Soony catapulted Michigan into national contention with one brilliant season, leading the nation with 19 goals and 43 points in 23 games, but his departure after the fall semester was a major setback to the program.
He set single-season records for goals (19), points (43) and shots (152).
After being named Soccer America Freshman of the Year, Soony was gone.
“Soony feels that now is the right time for him to pursue his lifelong dream of playing professionally overseas,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said after Soony’s January departure. “We wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”
Fourteen MLS clubs are currently eligible to enter the weighted lottery and bid for the prized striker’s services. Soony won’t, however, be joining his Michigan teammate Justin Meram with the Columbus Crew. Columbus drafted Meram with the 15th-overall pick in the January SuperDraft.
The Crew, along with the Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake, have already signed players through the lottery. The lottery draft is in place for players who sign with the MLS after the SuperDraft.
Soony and Meram set a torrid pace for the Wolverines and tore up opposing defenses, accounting for 36 of Michigan’s 53 goals in the 2010 campaign. It will be an uphill battle for the Wolverines on offense this fall.
Meram and the Saad brothers combined to make a trio dubbed the “three amigos.”
“At first, I was trying to score on my own,” Meram said after defeating Central Florida to reach the Sweet Sixteen. “Now, I’ve changed my outlook on everything. With Soony and Hamoody on the attack … no team can defend all three of us.”
Now the “three amigos” are gone, leaving Hamoody as the last lonesome cowboy.
But the sting of losing Soony — the nation’s top prospect and 2009 MHSAA Mr. Soccer and 2009 Gatorade National Soccer Player of the Year — will be felt for years to come.
While at Dearborn High School, Soony broke the state record as a senior with 76 goals, finishing his high school career with a state-record 172 goals.
But Soony’s mark will certainly be left on the Michigan soccer program.
Along with scoring the first-ever goal in the new U-M Soccer Complex, Soony garned NSCAA second-team All-American honors, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and to the All-Big Ten First Team, as well as the Big Ten Tournament Offensive Player of the Tournament.
Now Soony has the the opportunity to change Michigan’s miserable luck in the professional ranks. Prior to 2011, six players had been drafted into the MLS, with none achieving regular starting jobs. The most glaring example of that is forward Peri Marošević. Drafted No. 5 overall by FC Dallas in 2009, Marošević has played just four times in league play for Dallas.