Steeven Saba’s soccer career between early 2018 and going into this season was trending in a hugely encouraging direction.
International recognition, a debut at the world-famous La Bombonera Stadium, coming face to face with Messi, reaching the last four of the Gold Cup with Haiti and earning an MLS contract with the Montreal Impact. Things just kept getting better and better. What could go wrong?
Pandemic, that’s what. Perhaps not directly, but the fact Impact’s players were prevented access to Centre Nutrilait, instead having to improvise individually on their training methods, is ultimately what did for Saba.
He went running near his Montreal home and the city of pot-holes did the rest.
That was back in May. At first Steeven didn’t even think he was injured and he tweeted, “There is far worst than a broken foot right now. I didn’t even know my foot was broken. Didn’t feel anything, just woke up and couldn’t walk.”
The initial prognosis said 8-12 weeks, but his recovery has taken a little longer than expected and it wasn’t until the Orlando defeat at Red Bull Arena on November 1, that Thierry Henry could again list the 27-year-old in his match-day squad.
It should have been a frustrating spell for Saba, who faced the media Tuesday after training, by video-conference. But sounding admirably confident, positive and upbeat, he gave the impression of one who had taken the setback in his stride.
“Everything in life is an experience. That’s all I said to myself. I just try to come here every day to get better, and that’s all that matters. I always try to stay positive. The injury happened five or six months ago. I try to leave it behind and move on to the next day, to continue to give my effort and whatever I have to do in practise, to show the coach what I can do.”
The setback has curtailed the Haitian to only three unused substitute appearances this season, but he sounds excited at the prospect of getting his chance.
“Everyone’s feeling great. We’re in the play-offs, everyone’s happy. We’re excited to go play and ready for what comes at us. That’s what you expect from a group going to the play-offs and yeah we can’t be any more excited than to go fight and win.
“We’re ok, we’re ready to take on any challenge that comes at us and we’re mentally prepared.”
Although making his Haiti debut against an Argentina side comprising Messi, Mascherano and Aguero at La Bombonera in May 2018, he doesn’t consider the experience to be the highlight of his international career so far.
That came just over a year ago and during a painful evening for Canadian fans, when The Grenadiers, 0-2 down after 28 minutes in the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup in the USA, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. The comeback was complete when Wilde-Donald Guerrier converted the comeback winner in the 76th minute, and Haiti were on their way to a semi-final against eventual champions, Mexico which they lost only in extra-time.
Saba played in all five of his country’s games at the Gold Cup, scoring against Nicaragua.
He remains a mystery man to Impact fans due to the circumstances surrounding his 2020 season, but undoubtedly carries good experience at a credible level.
It may be needed. With Sam Piette out and Victor Wanyama seemingly unlikely to play, Saba’s back in Thierry Henry’s plans.
With his 12 month contract about to expire, the Haitian is ready for any play-off opportunities that come his way, as he attempts to sew up options for 2021 and 2022.