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Former Academy Player of Year Soony Saad Making Most of U.S. Open Cup Opportunity


19-Year-Old Sporting Kansas City Forward Taking Advantage of Platform as Team Prepares for Wednesday’s Semifinal Against Philadelphia Union

19-Year-Old Sporting Kansas City Forward Taking Advantage of Platform as Team Prepares for Wednesday’s Semifinal Against Philadelphia Union

Sporting Kansas City forward Soony Saad is quick to acknowledge the attacking depth of his Major League Soccer team, which enters this week tied atop the Eastern Conference with D.C. United.

The 19-year-old Saad, the 2007-08 U-15/16 Development Academy Player of the Year out of Vardar and later a player for the Michigan Wolves, has had some sporadic playing time during his second season with Sporting. But he has made the most of his appearances at the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

“Anytime you have a chance to step on the field, I give it my all to prove that I can play not just in the Open Cup but in the league,” Saad said. “I’m excited to keep playing and see minutes on the first team in this domestic cup.”

Saad most notably had a two-goal effort against USL PRO’s Orlando City and his side now prepares for Wednesday’s semifinal stage against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

Saad is in the midst of his first full season and second overall with Sporting Kansas City. With attacking players such as Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong and Teal Bunbury in the fold, Saad understands the road to get a starting nod is more difficult than what he is used to.

“It is difficult trying to sit back and watch because from where I came from, in college I was the main man and scored a lot of goals,” said Saad, who has one start, six games played and 167 minutes in MLS play. “I didn’t see the bench often. So it’s been a transition over the last year since I’ve been at Kansas City, trying to push for more playing time. Ultimately, you want to be a part of the starting 11. Some don’t realize how difficult playing professionally is. It’s tough on you, mentally, physically and psychologically, especially when you go day in and day out with 100 percent effort and you might still not be starting. But you have to learn how to fight through it and take the chances when they come. I think I’ve done pretty well in that aspect, and I’m going to keep my foot on the pedal and press for more time.”

Saad’s youth career was in full bloom during his Development Academy days. He was named the top player of the U-15/16 age group during the first season of the Academy in 2007-08.

“I definitely miss the Academy a lot,” Saad said. “It was a place to grow and to learn as a player. I wish that my [second] club team had merged with the Columbus Crew a little sooner to have a chance to be a Homegrown player. I have fond memories of the Academy. My first year with Vardar, I did really well and then I got called up to the U.S. U-17 National Team, where I got to play in different countries. In my last year with the Wolves, that was a fun year, but I wasn’t able to go to the Finals because I went to Europe. The Academy prepared me for those trials in Europe with a professional environment, and it just keeps getting better.”

Only four years removed from the end of his first Academy season, Saad’s message to the Academy players preparing for Finals Week is simple: continue to work hard at your craft.

“It might sound cliché, but the biggest thing is to work hard and pursue the game you love,” Saad said. “A lot of times you’ll see players who have the skill but the one thing they lack is the drive to be a professional player or to make it far in the game. It’s fun to see other players grow around you. I know with Sporting, there are players from college who go there just to train, and some have played in the Academy. It’s fun to see the journey of when they were younger to see them as an adult player. So I would say to any Academy kid to keep training every single day and better yourself, watch games on TV and keep learning.”

Saad and Sporting Kansas City face Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. In the other semifinal, three-time defending U.S. Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC hosts Chivas USA at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. The Seattle Sounders-Chivas USA match was originally scheduled for Tuesday, July 10.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which is recognized as U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 98 consecutive years dating back to 1914. The winner will have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor long-time soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule
SEMIFINALS – Wednesday, July 11
Sporting Kansas City (MLS) at Philadelphia Union (MLS): PPL Park; Chester, Pa.; 7:30 p.m. ET

Chivas USA (MLS) at Seattle Sounders FC (MLS): Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.; 7 p.m. PT^

^ Game was originally scheduled for July 10

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FINAL – Tuesday, Aug. 7, or Wednesday, Aug. 8
Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) at Sporting Kansas City: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.; time TBD; Aug. 8

OR

Chivas USA (MLS) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS): LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.; time TBD; Aug. 7 or 8

OR

Philadelphia Union (MLS) at Seattle Sounders FC (MLS): CenturyLink Field; Seattle, Wash.; time TBD; Aug. 8

OR

Chivas USA (MLS) at Philadelphia Union (MLS): PPL Park; Chester, Pa.; time TBD; Aug. 7 or 8

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QUARTERFINAL RESULTS – Tuesday, June 26
Philadelphia Union (MLS) 5, Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) 2: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 3, Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) 0: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.

Chivas USA (MLS) 2, Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) 1: Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton, Calif.

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) 1, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 0: Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, Calif.

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FOURTH-ROUND RESULTS – Tuesday, June 5
Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) 3, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 1 (OT): Skyline Sports Complex; Harrisburg, Pa.

Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2, D.C. United (MLS) 1 (OT): Maryland SoccerPlex; Boyds, Md.

Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) 2, Michigan Bucks (PDL) 1 (OT): Oakland University Soccer Field; Rochester, Mich.

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 2, Colorado Rapids (MLS) 0: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.

Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) 2, San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) 1 (OT): Heroes Stadium; San Antonio, Texas

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 1, Minnesota Stars FC (NASL) 0: Cagan Stadium, Stanford University; Stanford, Calif.

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) 5, Cal FC (USASA) 0: Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

Chivas USA (MLS) 2, Carolina RailHawks (NASL) 1: WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

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THIRD-ROUND RESULTS – Tuesday, May 29, and Wednesday, May 30
San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) 1, Houston Dynamo (MLS) 0: Heroes Stadium; San Antonio, Texas; May 29

Michigan Bucks (PDL) 3, Chicago Fire (MLS) 2 (OT): Ultimate Soccer Arena; Pontiac, Mich.; May 29

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 3, Orlando City Soccer Club (USL PRO) 2: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.; May 29

D.C. United (MLS) 2, Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) 1 (OT): Richmond City Stadium; Richmond, Va.; May 29

Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) 2, Columbus Crew (MLS) 1: Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio; May 29

Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) 2, FC Dallas (MLS) 0: FC Dallas Stadium; Frisco, Texas; May 29

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 2, Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) 1: Cagan Stadium, Stanford University; Stanford, Calif.; May 29

Philadelphia Union (MLS) 3, Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) 0: PPL Park; Chester, Pa.; May 29

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) 4, New England Revolution (MLS) 3 (PKs): Skyline Sports Complex; Harrisburg, Pa.; May 29

New York Red Bulls (MLS) 3, Charleston Battery (USL PRO) 0: Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston, S.C., May 29

Chivas USA (MLS) 1, Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 0: Ventura College; Ventura, Calif.; May 29

Carolina RailHawks (NASL) 2, LA Galaxy (MLS) 1: WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.; May 29

Colorado Rapids (MLS) 3, Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) 1: Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla.; May 29

Minnesota Stars FC (NASL) 3, Real Salt Lake (MLS) 1: Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah; May 29

Seattle Sounders (MLS) 5, Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) 1: Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.; May 30

Cal FC (USASA) 1, Portland Timbers (MLS) 0 (OT): JELD-WEN Field; Portland, Ore.; May 30

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SECOND-ROUND RESULTS – Tuesday, May 22
Michigan Bucks (PDL) 1, Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL PRO) 0: Chartiers Valley Stadium; Bridgeville, Pa.

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) 2, Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 0: Skyline Sports Complex; Harrisburg, Pa.

Cal FC (USASA) 4, Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) 0: Legion Sports Complex; Wilmington, N.C.

Carolina RailHawks (NASL) 6, PSA Elite (USASA) 0: WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) 7, Fresno Fuego (PDL) 2: Lockhart Stadium; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Orlando City Soccer Club (USL PRO) 7, K.C. Athletics (USASA) 0: Seminole Soccer Complex; Sanford, Fla.

Charleston Battery (USL PRO) 2, Reading United AC (PDL) 1: Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) 3, Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) 0: Sahlen’s Stadium; Rochester, N.Y.

Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) 3, Jacksonville United (NPSL) 0: Patton Park; Jacksonville, Fla.

Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) 4, Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks FC (USASA) 0: Maryland SoccerPlex Stadium; Boyds, Md.

Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) 1, at Georgia Revolution (NPSL) 0: RYSA Soccerplex; Conyers, Ga.

San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) 2, Laredo Heat (PDL) 0: Blossom Athletic Center; San Antonio, Texas

Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) 2, Chicago Fire PDL (PDL) 1: Toyota Park Practice Field; Bridgeview, Ill.

Minnesota Stars FC (NASL) 2, Des Moines Menace (PDL) 0: Valley Stadium; Des Moines, Iowa

Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) 1, El Paso Patriots (PDL) 0: Patriots Stadium; El Paso, Texas.

Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 3, Los Angeles Blues (USL PRO) 1 (OT): Hal Shurbeck Field, Fullerton College; Fullerton, Calif.

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FIRST-ROUND RESULTS – Tuesday, May 15
Jacksonville United (NPSL) 2, Orlando City U-23s (PDL) 1: Seminole Soccer Complex; Sanford, Fla.

Reading United AC (PDL) 2, N.Y. Greek Americans (USASA) 1 : Ray Buss Field, Fleetwood High School; Fleetwood, Pa.

Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 2, FC Sonic (NPSL) 0: Whitehall High School Stadium; Whitehall, Pa.

Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks FC (USASA) 3, Carolina Dynamo (PDL) 1: Maryland SoccerPlex; Boyds, Md.

Michigan Bucks (PDL) 6, Jersey Shore Boca (USASA) 0: Ultimate Soccer; Pontiac, Mich.

Georgia Revolution (NPSL) 1, Mississippi Brilla FC (PDL) 0 (OT): RYSA Soccerplex; Conyers, Ga.

Brooklyn Italians (NPSL) 3, GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) 2: Memorial Field, Deering High School; Portland, Maine

Chicago Fire PDL (PDL) 1, Croatian Eagles (USASA) 0: Toyota Park Practice Field; Bridgeview, Ill.

Des Moines Menace (PDL) 3, Milwaukee Bavarians (NPSL) 1 (OT): Bavarian Soccer Park; Glendale, Wis.

Laredo Heat (PDL) 4, ASC New Stars (USASA) 2 (OT): Texas A&M International University; Laredo, Texas.

K.C. Athletics (USASA) 3, Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) 1: Colorado School of Mines Soccer Stadium; Golden, Colo.

El Paso Patriots (PDL) 3, NTX Rayados (USASA) 1: Patriots Stadium; El Paso, Texas.

Fresno Fuego (PDL) 2, Stanislaus United Turlock Express (US Club Soccer) 0: Academica Fields; Turlock, Calif.

PSA Elite (USASA) 3, Portland Timbers U-23s (PDL) 1: JELD-WEN Field; Portland, Ore.

Cal FC (USASA) 3, Kitsap Pumas (PDL) 1: Bremerton Memorial Stadium; Bremerton, Wash.

Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 6, Fullerton Rangers (NPSL) 2 (OT): Santa Ana Bowl; Santa Ana, Calif.

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2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule (Per Round)
May 15: First Round
May 22: Second Round
May 29-30: Third Round
June 5: Fourth Round
June 26: Quarterfinals
July 11: Semifinals
Aug. 7 or 8: Final

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