The arrivals Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Rodolfo Pizarro have taken over most of the buzz of the MLS offseason, and rightfully so given their pedigree and name recognition.
But don't sleep on Alan Pulido.
Pulido was the first big-name Liga MX import to make his way to to the league this offseason, when he was transferred to Sporting Kansas City from Chivas Guadalajara back in December. Speaking in an interview with ESPN Deportes' Jorge Ramos y Su Banda on Friday, Pulido said he's feeling increasingly comfortable with his new surroundings, and it's leaving him feeling locked and loaded for what he hopes will be a big 2020 campaign.
"I’ll be honest. It’s exceeded my expectations," Pulido said. "When I arrived at Sporting Kansas City and got to know the facility and the [training] complex they have and the way they manage things is great. In Mexico they’ve underestimated MLS … and now that’s changed a lot. You see all the players who have come here [to MLS], who are playing at a high level and can easily play in other leagues. But they’ve decided to play here … Players want to come and be part of this league. They [MLS] have an infrastructure I haven’t seen in many places.”
“The money they’re investing – that’s why it’s growing. It’s getting really close to being on par with the Mexican league.”
Which Mexican star will make the biggest impact for their new club this season has become an inevitable subplot. For Pulido, it will make for a good friendly competition, particularly with an icon of his country in Chicharito.
“I have clear objectives and I hope to achieve them, but in this case I hope it’s me who scores the most goals," he said.
Pulido also discussed his motivation for coming to MLS, dismissing the notion that it was financially motivated, as some have speculated. According to Pulido, he simply he felt he'd accomplished what he had set out to achieve at Chivas and he was intrigued by the growing quality and style of play in MLS that he says is similar in physicality to European leagues.
“I felt that there was a cycle that I had completed in Chivas,” Pulido said. “I succeeded and met all the objectives I had set. Being there [at Chivas] wasn’t in the plans and I took this opportunity.
“[MLS] is a league that gives you a future. Many players who’ve been here have gone to Europe. Look at Pizarro’s case. If he does things well here and has good seasons here, it’ll help him get to Europe. A lot of things [in MLS] are similar [to Europe]. The infrastructure and the physical contact here is very close to European soccer. That’s why the majority of players are looking at this league a lot more than before. I’ve been speaking to teammates and the majority want to come here and play in this league for everything it offers. There will be more and more Mexicans and players in the Mexican league who will come here.”
For Sporting, a productive season from Pulido could be the biggest difference-maker in 2020 coming off a disappointing 2019 that saw the perennially competitive club uncharacteristically miss the playoffs.
Pulido said that helping right that ship is part of his motivation, with the knowledge that everyone in the organization is committed to re-establishing the previous standard the club has set.
“I like the mentality that my teammates have here [at Sporting KC]," Pulido said. "They know last year they didn’t achieve what they were hoping and I think they have this chip on their shoulder to have a great season. And this motivates me because everyone is focused on doing things well. And there’s good competition within the team. If everything goes well, I think this team will compete in this league.”
“Personally, I’m happy. This club [Sporting Kansas City] has treated me in the best possible way from the moment I was in discussions with them and arrived in Kansas and I continue to receive this great treatment. This club has given me everything I need to develop on the field which in the end is where every player needs to deliver.”