Sporting Kansas City’s landmark acquisition of Alan Pulido this week is certainly a “sign of the time” in MLS. After years of touting their small-market, budget-conscious spending approach, Sporting KC pulled out the checkbook and asked: “How much?”
It’s now a world head coach and sporting director Peter Vermes believes that Sporting KC will remain engaged in, too.
“There’s a thing called plateau negotiating,” Vermes told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. “Sometimes when you hit the plateau, you never go down from there. I’m going to assume that we’re in this world now and we’re going to continue to be in this world. I also think that our league is in this world as well. It’s just a part of the evolution.”
The Mexican striker commanded a transfer fee that is reportedly higher than their previous combined spending on transfer fees. While the details haven’t fully been disclosed to the public, it shows a clear intent by Sporting KC to get back into the fold in 2020 after an uncharacteristically poor season and raise the stakes.
But Sporting’s biggest takeaway from the signing is not just that they spent the money.
“I know that there has been a lot made about how big this transfer was and how much money we spend,” Vermes said. “But I also think you have to take into consideration that we also feel that we got the right person. That’s the key – being able to make a deal like this but also making sure that the acquisition of the person is the right person.”
Right person, and the right fit. So how does Vermes intend to use Pulido? He has played on both the wing and as an underneath striker, and Sporting just brought back Khiry Shelton, who played an integral role as a set-up striker in Sporting’s attack in 2018.
“[Pulido is] a striker up top,” Vermes said. “As I said before, I know everybody has their own opinions of how players play and different formations but it’s simple: He’ll be in the middle of the park for us.”
In 2018, Shelton and Diego Rubio did a fantastic job dropping deeper and pulling defenders out of position, leaving plenty of space for the in-cutting wingers Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell to fire off from multiple shooting lanes. Both Salloi and Russell scored double-digit goals and Sporting set a club record for goals scored in a season. The reasons Vermes likes Pulido outside of his ability to score would seem to allow Sporting to get back to what was so successful.
“Coming from the Mexican league to Major League Soccer, the Mexican league is a very tough league to play in,” Vermes said. “He has always found a way to be dangerous no matter what team he’s playing on. He can play in a very physical match, you can play through him, and he has the ability to [deliver] the final pass. He has all of the qualities that we look for at the end of the day. His work ethic, competitiveness and qualities [as a player] all fit into what we’re looking for.”
An acquisition like this, with a player as highly touted as Pulido, is certain to bring a much larger profile for the club overall. With that comes more scrutiny, more pressure, and potentially a smaller margin for error. However, Vermes doesn’t feel like the acquisition adds any more pressure than they already have.
“The pressure has always been more self-induced then external. Myself, the staff, the players – we all want to win. It’s not going to change. It just gives us a much better weapon to do it with,” he said.