Not even the lottery system can defeat Sporting Kansas City right now.Sporting entered Tuesday's four-team lottery for former Univ. of Michigan forward Soony Saad with the third-best chance of winning the random draw, but it contradicted the odds and landed the rights to the former Wolverine standout.
Sporting manager Peter Vermes said Saad's arrival “fell out of the sky” during a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. The characterization just about fits based on the lottery itself and Saad's path to MLS.
Saad, 18, played one season at Michigan – 19 goals in 23 matches represents a fantastic haul – before signing with an agent and foregoing his remaining three years of eligibility. Saad attempted to earn a contract with clubs in Belgium, Germany and Norway earlier this year, but those efforts failed and ultimately led him to sign with MLS last week.
“The last few months have been hectic,” Saad said. “I was in Norway a few months ago and things were looking pretty promising there. Then I came home because I had my return flight and things fell through. At that moment, my agent and I were figuring out the best way to get into a training environment ASAP because, at home, I can keep my fitness up, but keeping my match fitness up is a different thing entirely. We looked at different possibilities and MLS was there. MLS was very quick to respond and that was very good.”
Although that response landed Saad a deal in the American top flight and ensured his professional future, it did not spark widespread interest in his (presumably) reasonably priced services. Fourteen teams – minus previous lottery winners Columbus, Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake and San Jose – were eligible to enter the selection process, but only Chivas USA (45.9%), Chicago (32.3%) and Portland (.6%) joined Sporting (21.2%) in the pot.
The dearth of suitors suggests Saad probably isn't ready to contribute straight away and could use some seasoning in reserve league play to facilitate his adjustment to the professional level. Saad's arrival won't reduce Sporting's roster flexibility to pursue other players during the summer, but it does give the club yet another promising attacking prospect for the future, according to Vermes.
“I think every team in MLS is always looking to improve their roster,” Vermes said. “We look at this as a move to bring in a player who we think has an incredible upside and a huge ceiling. We're going to continue to try and find more players that we can fit into our team.”
All-Star First XI voting wraps as selected media ballots released to frame debate
Fans wrapped up their contribution to the All-Star voting process last night as MLS drew its First XI voting to a close just before midnight.
A few surprising faces – Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler, Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller and Philadelphia midfielder Justin Mapp are all included in that group – looked poised to divert a few All-Star bonuses away from more deserving candidates when MLS released an update around 5:00p.m. on Monday.
In addition to providing an update on fan voting, a member of the MLS communications department also Tweeted 12 First XI submissions offered by selected media members – including yours truly – when they handed in their All-Star ballots in late May and early June.
In the interests of clarity and discussion, here is a compilation of those votes:
* - received a vote in another position
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando, RSL (4), Faryd Mondragon, PHL (3), Kevin Hartman, FCD (2), Stefan Frei, TFC (1), Kasey Keller, SEA (1), Donovan Ricketts, LA (1)
Right back: Jan Gunnar Solli, NY (6), Sean Franklin, LA (3), Robbie Russell, RSL (1), A.J. DeLaGarza, LA (1)*
Center back: Jamison Olave, RSL (7), Rafa Marquez, NY (4), Omar Gonzalez, LA (3), Tim Ream, NY (3), Carlos Valdes, PHL (3), Nat Borchers, RSL (3), Danny Califf, PHL (1), Ugo Ihemelu, FCD (1), George John, FCD (1) Drew Moor, COL (1)*, Marvell Wynne, COL (1)*
Left back: Alain Rochat, VAN (4), Heath Pearce, CHV (3)^, Gonzalo Segares, CHI (1), Chris Wingert, RSL (1)
(^ - Pearce earned all three of his votes at left back despite playing the majority of his season in central defense for Chivas USA. As one of the three voters in Pearce's corner, I'd say the quality of his play at that point of the season merited consideration in his natural role. Rochat would have earned my nod otherwise.)
Right wing: Landon Donovan, LA (12)*, Dane Richards, NY (2), Andy Najar, DC (1)
Central midfield: David Beckham, LA (9), Shalrie Joseph, NE (6), Osvaldo Alonso, SEA (5), Kyle Beckerman, RSL (2), Dwayne De Rosario, DC (1), Jack Jewsbury, POR (1), Jeff Larentowicz, COL (1), Joel Lindpere, NY (1), Teemu Tainio, NY (1)
Left wing: Brad Davis, HOU (8), Brek Shea, FCD (3)*,
Forward: Thierry Henry, NY (10), Chris Wondolowski, SJ (4), Charlie Davies, DC (2), Omar Bravo, SKC (1), Teal Bunbury, SKC (1), Luke Rodgers, NY (1)
In the interests of transparency, I selected this group as my starting XI on June 2: Mondragon; Solli, Olave, Valdes, Pearce; Donovan, Beckham, Joseph, Davis; Wondolowski, Henry.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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