Not many Homegrown players have logged as many miles on their journey to the first team as Daniel Salloi.
The son of former Hungarian international Istvan Salloi, the 20-year-old striker has been moving back and forth between Kansas City and his native Hungary for the past two-and-a-half years, chasing down his chance to suit up for Sporting KC.
First attracted to Sporting’s youth academy in August of 2014 by U-18 coach and former Hungarian international Istvan Urbanyi, Salloi packed his boots, hopped a plane, and enrolled at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas.
In the 2014-15 campaign, Salloi’s 21 goals led Sporting’s U-18 team to its best-ever regular season in the US Soccer Development Academy with a record of 14-8-5. He subsequently returned to Hungary to play with the senior side of his boyhood club, Ujpest FC, but was quickly brought back stateside when Sporting signed him to a Homegrown deal in January of 2016.
“But I couldn’t really play with Sporting,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “There were other players in front of me. I couldn’t get a chance.”
Over a 10-match loan last year to Sporting’s USL side, Swope Park Rangers, Salloi impressed with four goals and three assists. That summer, however, he crossed the Atlantic yet again, this time on loan to the recently-promoted Gyirmot SE.
Salloi overcame an early back injury to log two goals — both game-winners — in 13 appearances for the northwest Hungary club.
“I decided to go back on loan to Hungary,” he said. “I thought that could help me more, to play in the Hungarian first division, and now [head coach Peter Vermes] wanted me to come back.”
Vermes did indeed show his eagerness to have the young striker back in the mix, working him into all six preseason matches this year. Salloi demonstrated flashes of his ankle-breaking skill on the ball and his nose for goal, scoring a header and adding two assists in Desert Diamond Cup play.
“He’s worked very hard in preseason,” Vermes said. “He’s got some really good qualities going forward.”
Now a settled pro with European experience, the younger Salloi knows a thing or two about the culture of the game in his homeland — and he’s grateful for the education he’s received in Kansas City, too.
“These are national team guys,” he said. “Benny [Feilhaber], [Graham] Zusi, [Matt] Besler. I can learn — not just how they play, because obviously they’re so good with the ball — but the mentality, how they’re very professional.”
He explained that work ethic can be a problem back in Hungary, but he was happy to acclimate to the Sporting way of life as a teenager.
“When he was in our academy, he understood pretty quickly that this was different from where he was from,” Vermes said. “I’m very familiar with it, having played there myself. But he’s adapted well.”
Most impactful on Salloi has been the positive, encouraging way he’s treated by coaches, teammates and fans.
“It gives you confidence,” he said. “You believe that you can do anything. That’s what I like in America. It’s so positive, and the environment is great.”
While it’s still early, Vermes thinks that Salloi has finally played himself into the regular-season lineup.
“He’s definitely a player that’s going to find some time this year,” Vermes said, “based on the fact that he’s got some really good qualities that fit into our team.”