Sporting Kansas City has started to find its groove in recent weeks and a healthy Alan Pulido has certainly helped with the club’s latest resurgence.
Pulido scored twice and registered one assist on Saturday in SKC’s 4-1 home victory over Austin FC, continuing to get back to his best for the Western Conference club. The 32-year-old missed the entire 2022 season due to a knee injury before making his 2023 debut in an April 0-0 draw with the Philadelphia Union.
Now after delivering his best overall performance since returning from injury, shades of the old Pulido are visible to SKC head coach Peter Vermes.
“When he was injured, he put his head down and he worked extremely hard, and I think he’s seeing the fruits of that labor that he put in, and I think you’re also starting to see again the player that we originally had in the beginning,” Vermes said postmatch.
“He’s a guy that wants to play, wants to be on the field. It’s his passion and what he wants to do,” Vermes added. “There’s players that sometimes, they want to get out of everything, right?… He’s never been that way from day one.”
Pulido made the move to SKC in 2020 from Liga MX side Chivas de Guadalajara and was one of the top performers for the club in his first two MLS seasons. He registered 14 goals and added eight assists in 34 combined appearances for the club, despite the club playing just one playoff match over that span.
Pulido set the tone early at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday night, needing just 19 minutes to break the deadlock with a right-footed finish. His distribution in the 47th minute allowed Robert Castellanos to extend SKC’s lead to 2-0 in the 47th minute before Pulido finished off Tim Leibold’s cross 10 minutes later to truly pad SKC’s advantage for good.
SKC has reaped the rewards of Pulido’s return to form, winning three of their last four matches and moving up to eighth in the Western Conference. Now a busy June schedule continues with a June 17 home showdown with LAFC before final matches with LA Galaxy (away) and Chicago Fire (home) to close out the month.
SKC will not only continue hoping they can get the best out of Pulido throughout the brutal summer schedule, but also continue working towards their long-term goals this year.
“It all comes down to the fact that there is a belief in the group,” Vermes said. “Everybody really believes that we are working towards the right goals. We still have a lot of work to do. We haven’t even come close to where I believe we can be.”
“I think, overall, it was a team effort,” Castellanos said. “First and foremost, it comes with the team. The coaching staff always puts in some plays for us. We go week in and week out practicing those. This week we got some fruits out of it. It was just good movement and us following our jobs.”