Saad makes championship run with Azul Juniors

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Naugatuck High rising junior Tyler Saad, a left back sweeper for the Greyhounds, won the New England Regional Premier League championship and the Connecticut State Cup as a member of the Connecticut Azul Junior U16 team. The team reached the semifinals of the National Championship Showcase in Aurora, Colo. on Sunday. -CONTRIBUTED
Naugatuck High rising junior Tyler Saad, a left back sweeper for the Greyhounds, won the New England Regional Premier League championship and the Connecticut State Cup as a member of the Connecticut Azul Junior U16 team. The team reached the semifinals of the National Championship Showcase in Aurora, Colo. on Sunday. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The key to success for any high school athlete, regardless of the sport, is the hard work and dedication displayed during the offseason. For Naugatuck soccer player Tyler Saad, there is no such thing as the offseason.

The Greyhounds left back sweeper, who is entering his junior year, plays year-round and has been doing that since he was 5 years old. That hard work paid off in the second game of his freshman season when he entered the lineup and never came out.

The two-year starter was an All-Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division pick last year and is not about to rest on his laurels. Saad goes from the fall season to indoor soccer before he plays spring soccer for the Connecticut Azul Juniors.

“This is my third year playing for Azul,” Saad said. “We have players from different high schools all over Connecticut. A lot of my teammates are All-Region and All-State players. The competition is phenomenal and it has certainly made me a better player. I have always played against players who were older than me. I started playing in the premier leagues when I was 10 years old.”

This summer the Azul Junior U16 team won the New England Regional Premier League championship and went on to win the Connecticut State Cup. It marked the second year in a row that Saad was on the Connecticut State Cup championship team.

Azul is sponsored by the Connecticut Football Club and is in partnership with the New England Revolution. The Azul Junior U16 team recently represented Connecticut in the regionals in Rhode Island and earned a spot in the National Championship Showcase in Aurora, Colo.

“It was a tremendous feeling to win the Connecticut State Cup two years in a row,” Saad said. “Doing so well at such a high level of play only feeds my desire of wanting to play in college. Playing for a national championship is just an awesome experience.”

Azul benefited from Saad’s defensive presence as Connecticut won the first game of the national tournament, defeating Colorado Storm by a slim 1-0 margin on July 18. Azul finished play in Group A with a 3-0 record following wins over the Chicago Magic (3-2) and the Gulf Coast Texans (3-2). The ride to glory ended in Sunday’s semifinals as Azul suffered a 3-0 loss to CZ Elite California, which went on to win the national title.

Saad has already made quite an impression on his coach, Graciano Brito, who is also an assistant coach at Quinnipiac University. With his left-footed ability and his sheer speed on the field Saad will certainly be noticed for his hard work and dedicated effort.