In his first season with Columbus Crew SC, Mohammed Saeid has played a unique, but significant role. He appeared in 25 matches, starting 18 of them, and played both center and attacking midfield for the Black & Gold. Saeid's versatility and work rate have contributed to the team’s overall success and earned him the respect of Crew SC supporters in no time.
Saeid says his connection with his teammates and supporters has helped him adjust to life in the U.S. and pushes him to go the extra mile.
“I’ve made some new friends here and they show me around,” he says. “They’ve been taking care of me ever since I came here and made me feel like I’m at home. That’s an important part for me also to be able to perform on the pitch. You have to have players and also fans who’ve made me feel welcome here, so that was very nice.”
Saeid's initial connection to the Capital City stemmed from his days playing in his native Sweden.
Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter spent two years coaching Hammarby IF, a club in Sweden’s top-flight Allsvenskan (All-Swedish League). Their paths crossed when Berhalter coached against Saeid, who played for Örebro SK.
“When I was a free agent, he was one of the coaches that called me and spoke to me personally,” Saeid says. “Of course, that made a bigger impression of him as a person and as a coach, and I think that’s what made the final piece to come here.”
Saeid had never visited the U.S. until December of 2014, after signing with Crew SC on October 29. Despite having to move over 4,000 miles to a new country, the 24-year-old was drawn to Berhalter’s attractive style of soccer and his commitment to improve his players.
“You’ve seen each year, the two-and-a-half seasons he’s been here, he’s improved a lot of players,” Saeid says, “especially the center midfield where Tony [Tchani] and Wil Trapp have shown their abilities. They’ve been two great players for the club and they’re looking to improve even more. With the guidance of this coach, I think they have great things coming.”
Saeid credits his midfield teammates, but he has played a huge part for the Black & Gold in the center of the pitch as well. He stepped in for Trapp, who was sidelined for nearly three months this season with a concussion, and didn’t miss a beat.
The versatile contributor says he welcomes pressure that stems from not only his team’s desire for success, but from Crew SC’s passionate supporters as well.
“It shows that they care about the club,” he says. “It shows that they also kind of put pressure on us, and all players love pressure. Everyone likes to play important games, and that’s why you play the game. For us to see that they are so passionate, it gives us extra motivation to play each game and each training [session], to try to get better and try to get results.”
Columbus has been earning important results, with the weight of each win increasing game-by-game. The Second Leg of the Eastern Conference Championship is this Sunday, and Saeid says being ruthless is what will set Crew SC apart from the New York Red Bulls and potentially win them the MLS Cup this year.
“We have to be more ruthless and try to take the chances that we get,” he says. “Even if we get one chance, we try to score that one goal and try to defend to the best of our ability and I think that will bring us the MLS Cup.”
Saeid has made his mark on Columbus in his first season, but he’s not finished yet. Columbus is only two matches away from winning its second MLS Cup and the Swedish midfielder is driven by his teammates and supporters to go all the way.
“As a player, you always strive to be one of the best players you can be, and obviously that means you try to win as many trophies as possible,” he says. “For me, a trophy means that your hard work has been rewarded and obviously, it would be a nice thing to bring it to the fans who’ve been supporting us, even though sometimes we haven’t been great, but we can win the MLS Cup. It’d mean a lot to me and the players who’ve been working hard.”