Amidst Golden Boot race, Alan Pulido making case for best comeback season in Major League Soccer history


On Thursday, Sporting Kansas City announced a three-year contract extension for Alan Pulido to keep the Designated Player in Sporting Blue through the 2026 season.

Since arriving in Kansas City in 2020, the World Cup veteran has climbed to the top of the club's all-time goals per game chart.

SKC All-Time Goals Per Game
(min. 20 regular season games)

  1. Alan Pulido 0.48 (27 goals in 56 games)
  2. Dom Dwyer 0.45 (57 goals in 128 games)
  3. Willy Agada 0.41 (9 goals in 22 games)

Pulido has reached new heights in 2023 -- scoring 12 goals in the club's last 12 games to move into second in the MLS Golden Boot race -- and the 32-year-old striker has done so after overcoming one of the lowest moments of his career in 2022.

After undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 17, 2022, Pulido would be sidelined for the next 14 months while enduring an extensive rehabilitation before making his long-awaited return to the field on April 1, 2023 as a second-half substitute.

Pulido wasted little time in reasserting himself as a dynamic goal scorer and the Mexican international is now amidst arguably the greatest comeback season in the 28-year history of Major League Soccer.

In April, Pulido opened his scoring account with a goal on his U.S. Open Cup debut.

In May, Pulido scored his first goal in MLS play with the game-winner on the road against the reigning Concacaf Champions League winners.

In June, Pulido was named MLS Player of the Month with a club-record six goals and he hasn't looked back since.

Most goals in MLS since June

  1. Alan Pulido (SKC) 12
  2. Ryan Gauld (VAN) 9
  3. Facundo Torres (ORL) 9

Suffice to say, Pulido's scintillating season is unprecedented in MLS history. Previously, no player in MLS had scored 10 goals after missing the entirety of his team's previous season due to injury.

The closest two comparable comebacks came within the past five years. In 2019, Seattle striker Jordan Morris scored 10 goals after tearing his ACL in the Sounders' CCL opener in 2018 and missing the remainder of the campaign. Similarly, Josef Martinez tore his ACL in Atlanta's MLS opener in 2020 and came back in 2021 to record 12 goals.

When broadening the scope to players who missed an extended period of time due to injury - but not the entire season - and who went on to win MLS Comeback Player of the Year, only one recipient scored more goals than Pulido has scored thus far in 2023. That came 15 years ago in 2008 when Dallas forward Kenny Cooper scored 18 goals after missing four months in the middle of the 2007 season with a broken tibia.

This year's MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award - voted on by clubs, players and media -- will be announced following the conclusion of the regular season, which comes to a close with Decision Day on Oct. 21.

Until then, Pulido has six matches remaining in his pursuit of the MLS Golden Boot and could become only the second player to earn Golden Boot honors in both Liga MX and MLS along with Camilo Sanvezzo.

MLS Golden Boot Leaderboard

  1. Hany Mukhtar (NSH) 14
  2. Alan Pulido (SKC) 13
  3. Giorgos Giakoumakis (ATL) 13
  4. Luciano Acosta (CIN) 13
  5. Three players tied with 12