By: Travis Mitchell (@SKCSpins)
The Winds of Change
Things are changing at Sporting Kansas City. In MLS play over the past few weeks, SKC beat the Seattle Sounders on the road, destroyed a struggling Minnesota team, and with a half week of preparation secured a point on the road against LAFC. Although the Los Angeles Galaxy have a game in hand, it feels nice to not be at the bottom of the standings. Amidst this sudden uptick in play, MLS has released player salaries, and there have been rumors that Alan Pulido’s old team, Chivas de Guadalajara, is looking to sign the striker in the next transfer window. Hearing this news, many fans’ reaction was that SKC should sell the striker ASAP, get the money and invest in an upcoming talent-- Hopefully making the team younger and more injury resistant.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been high on Alan Pulido, he passes the eye test, and consistently looks better than most MLS competition in the attack. Despite my bias, I think that the best option for Sporting Kansas City is to hold onto him for the remainder of the year, and reassess at that point.
Alan Pulido is an Elite MLS talent that unlocks Peter Vermes’ Offense
As of the writing of this article, Peter Vermes is still the Sporting Kansas City coach, and with his recent success he looks to be safe for the time being. Despite being out of the US Open and still in the cellar of the MLS Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City is in a win now approach to the league. The team’s stance is to salvage what they can, not rebuild from scratch. We still have Leagues’ Cup, and anything can happen in the MLS playoffs if the team truly rounds into form.
Alan Pulido is our best option at striker for this year. Since he has returned to being 90 minutes fit, Sporting Kansas City has gone 2-1-1. During this time, he has scored 1 goal, 2 assists, had 9 shot creating actions and a goal creating action. His ability to drop back into the midfield and link the lines has also been a boon to the team. Compared to other forwards in the MLS he ranks in the 91st percentile at pass completion, he ranks in the 82nd percentage in forward passes and has been above average with dribbles, completing 1.64 progressive carries per 90. We’ve yet to see his goal scoring ability fully return, but historically he’s been in the 80th to 95th percentile for both goals scored and assists. As he continues to shake off 2 years of rust from his injury, he should continue to improve through the season, and with Willy Agada’s injury, the replacements on the roster currently are an unproven Stephen Afrifa or Khiry Shelton.
Peter Vermes is in Charge of Our Roster
The last time that Sporting Kansas City had a player to sell for a sizeable amount of money during an in-season window was Gianluca Busio. His trip to Venezia initially looked like a great deal for both player and club. Initially Venezia outplayed their talent and looked like they might stay in the top flight of European football, Busio in particular looked to be a promising young star for the team, showing a lot of the promise he exhibited weekly for SKC. We were ready to rake in the sell-on fee and swim in newly bought talent. As of this year, Busio is a bench warmer in Serie B who has lost most of his value by choosing to stay at Venezia through relegation. When Busio played for SKC the year we sold him, we looked almost unbeatable, and the team was special. After selling him, we lost our spark, no longer looked like title contenders and we spent a lot of money on Jose Mauri.
As things stand today Sporting Kansas City is currently paying Uri Rosell $500k to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy this year. Sporting Kansas City signed Khiry Shelton to a multi-year contract that sees him making $625k after completing a season where he saw 1407 minutes of playing time and had 1 assist and 1 goal to show for it. I have no faith in the ability of Sporting Kansas City’s ability to sign a talented young striker regardless of how much Chivas is willing to pay for him in the next transfer window (which probably isn’t even that much money, seeing that he’ll be a free agent this winter.)
If you could trust Sporting Kansas City’s front office to sell and replace Alan Pulido with a talented young forward, that’s obviously the move you would have to make. However, you can’t trust our talent acquisition team to make the right calls. After investing 2 years into Alan Pulido’s rehabilitation, the best hope for Sporting Kansas City is to get a good year out of him, win whatever we can, and unless he’s willing to re-sign at a sizable discount move on from him during the off-season.
EDIT: I originally used FBREF.com for my statistics on Alan Pulido, and they did not count his 2 assists for this year for some reason. I updated the article to reflect his assists after I verified them on MLSsoccer.com.