The summer and international soccer are starting to heat up, and so is Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido.
The Mexican forward again played a key role in Sporting KC’s 3-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Though Pulido facilitated most of Sporting KC’s attacking play up to that point, the Mexican striker found few scoring chances of his own until the 60th minute. Pulido rifled in a shot off the top left corner of the crossbar to bring Sporting into a 2-1 lead.
The goal continues a scoring tear heading into the summer for Pulido. Since arriving at Sporting KC as the club’s record signing at $9 million, Pulido fought through an injury this offseason to lead Sporting to wins in three of its last four matches.
“It’s almost like a hunger on the field that is never satisfied,” Vermes said after Sporting’s win against San Jose. “He just keeps going after it. You can talk about him being a sniper in front of goal, his passing. But the bottom line is what he really has instinctively, he has this incredible quality of understanding what the game needs in different moments and being able to provide it and execute it. He’s tremendous.”
With his recent uptick in form, Pulido is making a strong campaign for a spot on Mexico’s Nations League roster. El Tri’s No. 9 spot is up for grabs now that it appears Raul Jimenez will not be available this summer. The Wolverhampton striker, is still recovering from a fractured skull suffered during a match against Arsenal last November.
Jimenez has been included in Mexico’s preliminary roster, but Wolves’ club doctor Matt Perry released a statement on the club’s website indicating “further match-based rehabilitation” will not start until July.
Pulido featured in Mexico’s roster in March for friendlies against Wales and Costa Rica, but he did not see the field in either match, likely due to the fact he was still in preseason form. Two months and good stretch of performances later, Pulido is heading toward the summer in the kind of form that should have Mexico manager Tata Martino taking notice.
While Pulido has played in every Sporting KC match this season, he started slowly. Pulido worked through an offseason injury up to match fitness early in the season. A goal against Real Salt Lake in the third match of the season seemed to announce his full return into the fold for Sporting.
“He lost a ton of fitness, and so we had to build his fitness back up,” Vermes said. “He has continued to work incredibly hard. He has an incredible work ethic.”
The 30-year-old Pulido has plenty of strong, young attacking players to combine with at Sporting KC. Sporting’s 18-year-old central midfielder Gianluca Busio started the season well, and Pulido has combined well with 24-year-old fellow striker Daniel Salloi lately.
Salloi assisted Pulido’s goal in Saturday’s win in San Jose. Pulido did not officially assist Salloi’s last two goals, against San Jose and Vancouver, but the ball had been deflected from his feet on both goals.
“He has the ability to actually play the ball wherever you want it, not just to me but to others as well,” Salloi said. “I think he played amazing today, the way he checked back off the line and turned to defenders. He makes our job easier. I think we’re getting more and more comfortable as the season is going. So hopefully its going to be a good partnership. Not just with me, but I want him to have this with the rest of the team as well.”