Sporting Kansas City lock in Alan Pulido: "I’m here fighting"

Alan Pulido SKC celebration

As he continues a standout season for Sporting Kansas City, Alan Pulido's future is now secure.

The Western Conference club announced Thursday they agreed on a new Designated Player contract with the 32-year-old striker, which lasts through 2026.

For manager and sporting director Peter Vermes, the contract is a just reward for the Mexican international, who has re-established himself as one of the league’s top No. 9s in 2023.

“I think the great thing is that between, I would say, him and his agent and us at the club, we had great communication from day one when we were talking about this,” Vermes said on a virtual press conference. “And this goes all the way back to I think last August, where we already started talking about this and how could we get there, and we maintained a very open communication.

“And so at the end, I think this is a great relationship in that he knows how much we would like him to be here, I know how much he enjoys it here,” Vermes continued. “And the fact that we were able to come to an agreement that we all feel good about is great, because at the end it comes down to us both wanting the same thing, and that is we both want to be successful, we want to win, and there's no doubt he has those qualities.”

During an MLS campaign where SKC have experienced ups and downs, Pulido’s play has been anything but. His 13 goals in 23 games (1,794 minutes) leave him in a three-way tie for second place in the 2023 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race, to go along with three assists.

It’s been a resounding bounce-back year for the club-record signing, who missed the entire 2022 season following knee surgery. Availability questions have been answered resoundingly in 2023, reinforcing Pulido's status as the focal point of the club’s attack, and giving Vermes plenty of confidence in where the star forward is at physically.

“One of the reasons why he was brought in here was to score goals, and his strike rate is phenomenal,” Vermes said. “And so the fact that he's now healthy and fit and strong – I would say he's still only 90%, he's still not probably 100%.

"Unfortunately we probably won't see 100% till next season."

Playoff push

Pulido’s form has fueled Sporting KC correcting course after a difficult start to the season, as they’ve climbed back into the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs mix. While they’re still 12th in the Western Conference standings through Matchday 31 (8W-12L-8D, 32 points), they’re just two points shy of FC Dallas for the ninth-and-final postseason bid.

With his future now clarified, the late 2019 arrival from Liga MX's Chivas de Guadalajara is squarely focused on aiding a late-season charge up the table.

“I missed the playoffs in my first year [due to injury] and then, well, something complicated happened with my surgery,” Pulido said. “For that reason, I personally have a thorn in my side. Now that I’m back in a good way, with all the work I’ve put in, I’m here fighting.

“And like I’ve said, hopefully I can collaborate with goals to help the team get points in these last remaining games and make the playoffs, which is very important to me. And if we make it, obviously try to win the championship."

Talk of trophies was a common theme for Pulido throughout his media availability, another indication that there's plenty of unfinished business left for the veteran striker. 

"I want to win a championship here. This is my mentality," Pulido said. "I don't want to leave this club without winning something."