When Sporting Kansas City forward Soony Saad made the switch to Bangkok-based BEC Tero Sasana in 2014, there were questions. It isn’t a traditional move, after all. In the latest installment of theScore 1-On-1, Saad reflected on his time in Thailand and spoke of his return to MLS after two years abroad.
The bustle of Bangkok
The opportunity came about due to his Lebanese passport. Agents presented offers from Asia, as Sporting KC lingered on a new deal. When the “Fire Dragons” of BEC Tero Sasana came knocking, Saad quickly said yes. In the blink of an eye, Saad went from being a well-liked MLS personality to plying his trade in the Thai Premier League, where he felt the weight of expectations right away.
“Being a foreigner, you have to bring something more to the game than what a standard Thai player would bring,” Saad told theScore as he reflected on his time in Thailand. “You’re always expected to do more, to produce something.”
Saad’s Thai adventure started off well but a torn meniscus in his left knee ruled him out for the entire 2015 season. In 2016, he returned but was loaned to Pattaya United, where he scored nine goals in 28 appearances. Thai football wasn’t too different from MLS, if but a touch more technical. But life could not be more different off the field for Saad, who lived in the middle of Bangkok.
It was nothing like the small colonial home of his childhood in Dearborn, Mich., or his apartment in Kansas City. The pace of the city was dizzying. “Constantly moving,” is how Saad described it, recounting the Skytrain roaring past his window. “There’s always something going on in Bangkok.”
Traffic? You bet. People, everywhere.
“On the side of the road, there’s huts for cooking. Going to a country that is almost the complete opposite of the U.S. was really culturally shocking for me.”
The sights, sounds, and smells of Thailand were all unfamiliar at first, but Saad said he doesn’t regret the decision for one moment. What he misses the most from Thailand might be surprising, though.
“I ended up becoming good friends with a Lebanese chef in Thailand. He has his own Lebanese restaurant and I used to eat there five, six times a week,” Saad revealed. “I definitely miss that food.”
Back to the Bromance
When Saad’s contract was up in Thailand, he was once again presented with a few options, including “serious” interest from expansion side Minnesota United. But a conversation with Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes was all Saad needed to come back. The return, Saad said, “feels like a dream.”
When Saad first called Sporting home, he and Dom Dwyer were close friends – sharing a bromance, as it were. It’s why, when Saad made his return, Sporting KC posted an article entitled “Soony and Dom together again.” Now back with the team, Saad said he and Dwyer picked up right where they left off.
“We never really lost touch,” Saad said. “We always talked when I was in Thailand. We both matured a lot. He has a wife and kid now. We still keep our level of fun and banter around but at the same time, we know we have different responsibilities and we’re at different points than we were a couple years ago.
“But it doesn’t really change much – we’re still great friends on the pitch. We like to look for each other. And off the pitch, we still hang out all the time.”
It’s those off-field antics that Sporting KC fans might miss the most from Saad.
The coolest name in MLS
Recently, Dwyer and Saad teamed up with Vermes to pull an April Fool’s prank on rookie Colton Storm, whom they set up with their friend “Joanna.” Storm begins a text conversation with Joanna by introducing himself as “Mark from Cabo.” Soon thereafter, they plan to meet at a cafe for their first date. While waiting for Joanna, Storm is surprised when Saad coincidentally walks in, and the two share a laugh. The next chance encounter for Storm, however, is not quite as pleasant, as Vermes walks in to first scold him, and then spill the beans on the lark.
“There was a lot more we could have done with it, maybe scaring Colton a little bit more, but I think you could see in the video he was quite nervous,” Saad said, with a laugh, when recalling the prank. “You might have to check his underwear or something.
“But his name is quite cool. We always give him stick for it. We call him “Storm Star” and stuff like that. But I would say the coolest is not “Colton Storm” – I’d say I have the coolest name in MLS.”