It hasn’t been the easiest year for Mohammed Saeid. Although the season started well for the Columbus Crew SC midfielder, who became a starter in the center of the park for the Black & Gold just four games in, things did not continue to go his way.
Despite stating 11 of Columbus’ 16 matches this season, Saeid has needed to manage his lumps.
First his teammate and good friend Kei Kamara was traded from Crew SC following a spat with teammate Federico Higuain. According to Saeid, that move came quite suddenly.
"I’m used to people getting sold and stuff. It’s not a big thing. It’s happened before in teams that I’ve been on so I’m used to it," Saeid said. "It’s just the trade thing that you’re not used to. One day he’s here and the next day he’s not. Normally in Europe you’ll find there’s rumors he’s going to be sold in one week, two weeks, three weeks before. That’s the difference here where someone can just, window’s open, okay, tomorrow he’s gone."
The disagreement between Kamara and Higuain occurred during a May 7 match. One week later, Saeid watched his friend — and the Black & Gold’s 2015 leading scorer — suit up for the New England Revolution.
"It’s football, the world that we live in," Saeid continued. "We understand the rules of the games and one day you’re here, the next day you’re not. So we’ve just got to deal with it, get on with it, try to take care of your family as much as you can and that’s all you can do."
Following Kamara’s departure, the injury bug struck Crew SC. Higuain was ruled out for five to seven weeks after sports hernia surgery in mid-June. This appeared to open the door for Saied to play his preferred No. 10 position, but Saeid was dealing with his own injury problems.
In the same match Higuain was hurt, Saeid landed awkwardly on a challenge and broke a vertebrae in his back. After a 17-day break between matches due to the the Copa America, Saeid was in the starting 11 for Columbus but was not healthy.
"What I would say with Mo is that he’s been dealing with heck of a lot of pain," head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Speaking to the doctors today, they were surprised he’s even able to play just because of the injury."
Since Higuain has been out, the Black & Gold have lacked a creative spark from the midfield. While Saeid has operated in that position, he has not been as active or as high up the field to have a major impact. According to the midfielder, it has more to do with his back injury than his inability to be the player Crew SC needs.
"It’s frustrating sometimes," he admitted. "When you feel that you’re not the player you can be. You can’t move freely the way you do move and stuff like that.
"Because of the way we play, everyone wants to beat us and that space is not always going to be there and you just have to work a little bit harder and sometimes you feel like you can’t get there or you’re one second late or there’s moments in the game where you’ve just got to be at the right place at the right time and sometimes I feel that’s lacking in my game."
This week, things are beginning to look up for Saeid. After being left out of the team in Columbus’ 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City last weekend, Saeid feels his back is getting healthier than it’s been in a while.
"Of course," he said when asked if he’s feeling better. "We’ve had a lot of games and I’ve played a lot of games, sometimes with pain, sometimes without it. Yeah, it feels much better now than it did before."
On top of that, a more full strength Saeid gets to see his good friend this weekend when the Black & Gold travel to take on the Revolution. Despite his untimely departure, Saeid and Kamara have kept in touch, both on social media and privately.
"He’s like my brother so of course," Saeid said. "I stay in touch with all the guys that have been here before and that I was close with.
"We still stay in touch. That’s the kind of guy I am. Just because someone leaves a team, I don’t forget about them."
During Kamara’s time in Columbus, he used to joke with the much smaller Saeid. The two would often remain on the training ground competing in different games. Those would always be friendly, but Saturday night will be different.
Although Saeid still claims Kamara as one of his closer friends and is looking forward to seeing him again, he will be doing everything he can to avoid losing this contest.
"You never want to lose against your brother," Saeid said of Kamara. "That game is always going to be there. ‘Remember that time when I beat you?’ I don’t want to be in that.
"It’s a game and I hate losing against him. Everyone knows on the team. I’m going to be as pumped up as he is for that game. It’ll be fun."