Alan Pulido - Sporting Kansas City - hands celebration

After coming to MLS with sky-high expectations, the 2020 season ended in disappointment for Alan Pulido and Sporting Kansas City.


It wasn't that Pulido played poorly. When he was on the field, the 29-year-old Mexico international looked every bit like the dominant No. 9 that Sporting fans have been saying their team needed for years, scoring six goals and dishing out five assists. The issue was Pulido only played 12 games and 962 minutes due to different absences, and a knee injury kept him out of SKC's two playoff matches. Sporting bowed out against Minnesota United in the semifinals after topping the San Jose Earthquakes in penalty kicks in Round One.


Ahead of SKC's 2021 campaign, Pulido feels back at full health and last year's disappointment leaves him eager to contribute more consistently. 


"Last season went well even though we lost in the semifinals. I think it was overall a very good year," Pulido, via a translator, told reporters on a Thursday video call. "We've had to adjust in the past year, with the difficulties with everything happening. But I also was injured and I missed the playoffs, and that was very hard to miss. But hopefully this season I'll be able to maintain my health and be able to play in the playoffs and continue to reach my goals.


"It was a huge bummer not being able to be there," he added. "However, I always have shown my support for the team when and if I can. Obviously, I was nervous watching the [first] game because it was a very close and tight game that went to penalties. Honestly, it made me more nervous than actually playing. But it did give me the motivation and the drive for this upcoming season."

The upcoming season carries implications for Pulido on the international stage, too. The striker said that he's been in contact with Mexico and is hoping to prove that he should be considered by manager Tata Martino as El Tri head into qualifying ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Pulido made his international debut in 2014 and has five senior-team goals in 14 appearances.


"This season overall for MLS will be a very important one and, hopefully, I will be able to continue representing Mexico and Sporting KC and be called up," he said. "I have remained in contact with the national team and I hope that I will be able to continue setting my goals and reaching them.


"I have made several goals that have helped my team go where they needed to be. I have always wanted to better myself and not stay stagnant. I hope to play as many games this season as possible and hopefully grow with my team and become No. 1. Qatar is also a very important goal of mine. I believe that there will be some opportunity with the national team if we remain strong. I do think that remaining strong with your club team does also add to having more opportunities with the national team as well."


To reach his ambitions, Pulido's first step will be staying fit and healthy. If Pulido can accomplish that while producing at a high rate, he can make it a memorable campaign for the Western Conference side.


"Last season did not finish the way I wanted. It made me sad," Pulido said. "However, I am recovered now and I am optimistic for this upcoming season. I want to play the best that I can and I hope to continue to reach the goals that I have set for myself."