Sporting Kansas City have been on the search for a star striker since trading Dom Dwyer to Orlando City SC halfway through the 2017 season. While they found an effective “goals by committee” solution in 2018, the 2019 season was a regression on the goal scoring front.
Their answer was to smash a club-record transfer fee for the Liga MX golden boot winner, Alan Pulido. As Pulido was introduced to the local media on Tuesday morning, he acknowledged the level of expectations that comes with that fee.
“I’m happy because this shows the club’s trust in my abilities and the qualities that I’ve shown,” Pulido said. “[It motivates] me in a different way. I’m now in a commitment with the club, my teammates, and the [fans]. I find that important in order for me to detail my future goals. Hopefully with the help of God, and alongside my teammates and the organization — which I believe is the ideal organization to be with — we achieve a lot of goals and the objectives that we set out for ourselves.”
Pulido played more as a No. 10 for Chivas Guadalajara while current San Jose Earthquakes manager Matias Almeyda was in charge of the Liga MX side. But after he left, Pulido transitioned more into a complete No. 9.
As for how Pulido will fit into the side, Vermes envisions him being able to do everything asked of a No. 9 in his system.
“When you have a player in that position, it’s hard to get a guy that has all those qualities,” Vermes said. “It’s hard to get a guy that scores goals. It’s hard to get a guy that can play with others, or that you can play through, so then he’s part of the buildup.”
But Vermes is also excited about what Pulido brings to the table against the ball. Sporting’s press and defensive shape has always been a hallmark of the club’s play since Vermes took over. The last two seasons, it began to go by the wayside. In 2019 they conceded 67 goals. While that can’t entirely be blamed on the striker, it’s an important part of the way Sporting play that Vermes just can’t ignore.
“The way that we play, that guy is the tip of the spear,” Vermes said. “He’s got to make the first movement, the first action right. He’s got to have the intelligence, the recognition, and the desire to do it. A lot of guys, they know [what to do] but they don’t have the desire to do it. He has all those qualities. He can do all that, but for me it’s not ‘one’ or ‘the other’. The game itself, or situations in the game, presents opportunities where the guy drops off the backline and you can play through him, and he can do all that”
The complete forward, with everything Vermes has wanted out of a player in that position, was always going to cost a pretty penny. Sporting believe they’ve finally found the player for the right price and with the right mentality.
“One of the things I’m really impressed with about Alan is his work rate,” Vermes said. “He works his butt off. It’s one of the big things that we search for when we bring players to our club. If you watched his team this year, as much as he was the shining star within the team at Chivas, they weren’t very high in the table. But every game he fought like they were trying to win the championship. That resonates with me because that talks about a guy that is a team player.”