Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi didn’t heave a monkey off his back in Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win over the New York Red Bulls to kick off the 2021 MLS season.

It was a fully grown gorilla.

Salloi slotted home the game-winning goal in the 60th minute at Red Bull Arena for his first tally since September 2019. It was a welcome relief for the 24-year-old Homegrown Player to get on the score sheet and help Manager Peter Vermes’ side to three massive points.

“Scoring a goal in general will always make me super happy, but we know that the recent past hasn’t been in my favor or how I planned it,” Salloi told club commentator Nate Bukaty on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning. “I worked really hard in the offseason and preseason and I think the staff and the players have seen that. The see it, but at the same time you still have to prove it on the field. A goal is a little bit of that proof.

“This is only the start, but I’m happy because that rock is starting to roll down from my shoulders and it’s making me feel better.”

In 2018, Salloi claimed Sporting’s Golden Boot honor with 16 goals in all competitions as one of the most prolific young attackers in MLS. His fortunes turned in 2019 and 2020, and although the setback was mentally challenging for Salloi to cope with, he believes that he can ultimately turn that stage of his Sporting tenure into the ultimate learning moment.

“This year, if I can get back to flying again, I think this (struggle) could end up helping my career,” Salloi said. “You learn how to come out from negative moments. It’s really difficult as a professional athlete. It should have taken me less time to do this, but life happens and no one is the same. I’m trying to get back into form and I feel confident now.”

Salloi may have been short on goals over the last two seasons, but Sporting Manager Peter Vermes has been consistently complimentary of the player’s work rate off the ball. As a winger in Sporting’s 4-3-3 formation, Salloi carries a defensive duty when his team doesn’t have the ball—one he’s more than happy to execute.

Moving forward, as Sporting continues to welcome back talented goal scorers such as captain Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido, Salloi expects Sporting to only get better over the course of 2021.

“I felt like I had good moments, but I still want to be more active and touch the ball more,” Salloi said. “As we come home and start playing in our own stadium, we as a team will play better and get more and more confidence. It’s always easier to be a part of a team like that.”

Salloi and Sporting will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Friday for the club’s highly anticipated home opener against Orlando City SC at 6:30 p.m. CT. The sold-out showdown will be televised nationally on FS1, FOX Deports and the FOX Sports app, while Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM will provide local radio broadcasts.

“When I first started playing for Sporting, I was buzzing every season opener,” Salloi said. “There’s always something special training in your own stadium, and that gets you even more excited for the game.”