Michael Lahoud can’t describe the feeling he had as he watched the Los Angeles Galaxy claim back-to-back MLS Cup titles but he can tell you it wasn’t a good one.
Confetti fell all around him while he watched as a bystander at the Home Depot Center, the cagey midfielder couldn’t help but have a little envy he and his Union teammates weren't a part of the celebration.
“If any player in this league who tells you there isn’t a little jealousy watching the MLS Cup and not playing in it, they are lying to you,” Lahoud said in an interview with philadelphiaunion.com recently. “It’s impossible to not wish you were in that situation. It’s what we all play for, it’s the ultimate goal.”
The last time the Union assembled as one unit on the field was Oct. 27 in a season ending loss to Red Bull New York. In the days that followed, Lahoud’s stress over a tumultuous season took him to Los Angeles, and the sandy beaches of California, a place he learned to love in a little over three seasons playing for SoCal’s Chivas USA.
His faith took him on a mission to South Africa with the Athletes in Action initiative where he and others used sport and ministry to connect with a young African teens. A native of Sierra Leone, Lahoud stressed the importance of giving back and the feeling doing so can bring.
“It’s a really rewarding feeling and the people there really appreciate the compassion,” Lahoud said. “For me it was an incredible trip, one that was important to me on a personal level and I really enjoyed my time there.”
It’s that same inherent feeling civic duty that found Lahoud in a car alongside friend and former Wake Forest teammate Marcus Tracy headed to Newtown, Conn. to lend a hand in any way he could to the “Soccer Night in Newtown” event that included a collection of past and present soccer players out to provide a night of healing to those affected by the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Lahoud wasn’t one of the players asked to represent the Union at the event, but taking one look at what that night meant to so many, no one had to.
“I went up there to do whatever I could and support Marcus, who is from Newtown,” said Lahoud. “But it was such a great event; you don’t know how many people came up and thanked me, thanked us for being there. It was something that really helped those affected by this tragedy to heal, and I was honored to be a part of it.”
But all of his philanthropic endeavors haven’t swayed him from what’s equally as important. Lahoud said he is keyed in on starting off the 2013 MLS season right and is “excited” about the healthy competitive nature of this season’s camp given the names returning and the one acquired this offseason. He’s kept himself fit, playing in pickup soccer and futsal matches and spent “the bulk of his offseason” bumming around Soccer City, the sprawling soccer complex located in Torrance, Calif.
“It’s not hard to prepare yourself for a new season, it’s just how you do it that’s important,” said Lahoud. “For me, having that time to get away and refocus I think makes you hungrier. I know as a team we don’t want to have the same season we had last year so it’s really important we go out, establish ourselves early in the season and get off to the right foot.”
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org