"I never gave up": Sporting KC star Alan Pulido reflects on Comeback Player of the Year
After a lost 2022 season, there were no guarantees that Sporting Kansas City forward Alan Pulido would regain his peak form in 2023.
Sporting Kansas City acquired Mexican striker Alan Pulido as a Designated Player on a club-record transfer fee from C.D. Guadalajara in December 2019. He has signed a four-year MLS contract through 2023.
Pulido has scored over 100 combined goals for club and country during a decorated career highlighted by five domestic championships, the 2018 Concacaf Champions League title and 13 caps for the Mexico Men’s National Team. The striker joined Sporting after finishing atop the Liga MX scoring charts with 12 goals for C.D. Guadalajara in the 2019 Apertura season, having earned his first Liga MX scoring title in the 2014 Clausura spring campaign.
At the international level, Pulido has bagged five goals for Mexico’s senior team and was part of the El Tri squad at the 2011 Copa America and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He also led the Mexico U-23s to the 2012 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament championship at Children’s Mercy Park as the top scorer of the competition.
2022: Missed the entirety of the 2022 season after having knee surgery following the 2021 campaign.
2021: MLS Regular Season: Started 15 of 21 appearances, tallying eight goals and three assists (1452 minutes played). Scored in the 17th minute of a match against Real Salt Lake on May 1. Bagged a brace against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 16. Scored and assisted against the San Jose Earthquakes in a 3-1 win on May 22, setting up Jaylin Lindsey's goal. Fired home against the Houston Dynamo on May 29 and against LAFC on June 26. Again, he scored against LAFC on Aug. 4. Against FC Dallas on Aug. 14, he scored and assisted Daniel Salloi in a 2-0 win. Picked up an assist against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 18, setting up Daniel Salloi's equalizer in the 92nd minute. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started one match in the MLS Cup Playoffs (73 minutes played).
2020: Earned Sporting KC Offensive Player of the Year honors. MLS regular season: Started 11 of 12 appearances, scored six goals and recorded five assists (961 minutes played). Scored on his MLS and Sporting debut, heading home in the 17th minute of a 3-1 victory at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Feb. 29. Scored the opener and assisted Gadi Kinda's goal in a 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on March 7. Assisted Khiry Shelton's goal in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota United FC on July 12. Scored a penalty kick in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids on July 17. Assisted both goals in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on July 22. Scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 3. Scored the opening goal in a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 24, also tying a single-game regular season club record with six shots on target. Assisted Roger Espinoza's goal in a 1-0 win at FC Cincinnati on Oct. 28. MLS is Back Tournament: Started five matches and recorded two goals and three assists (449 minutes played). Assisted Khiry Shelton's goal in a 2-1 group stage loss to Minnesota United FC on July 12. Scored a penalty kick in a 3-2 group stage win over the Colorado Rapids on July 17. Assisted both goals in a 2-0 group stage win over Real Salt Lake on July 22. Converted his penalty kick in a 3-1 shootout win over Vancouver following a 0-0 draw in the Round of 16 on July 26. Scored a goal in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to the Philadelphia Union on July 30. MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not feature.
C.D. Guadalajara (2016-2019):
Pulido returned to Liga MX in August 2016, joining C.D. Guadalajara on a club-record transfer fee where he began a prolific spell at Mexico’s most supported club. His first full season with Chivas yielded 14 goals in all competitions, including goals in both legs of the 2017 Liga MX Clausura Final that propelled Guadalajara to a 4-3 aggregate win over his former club Tigres. Pulido also guided his side to the 2017 Copa MX Clausura title during a double-winning campaign that culminated with his first Liga MX Best XI selection.
Pulido reached even greater heights in 2018, leading Chivas to the Concacaf Champions League title and the club’s first continental championship in 56 years. He played an instrumental role in both legs of a thrilling final against Toronto FC, scoring a brilliant free kick in a 2-1 first-leg win at BMO Field in Toronto and converting his penalty kick in a victorious shootout at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara after the series finished tied 3-3 on aggregate. Pulido’s strike in Toronto was selected as the Goal of the Tournament and he was later named a finalist for the 2018 Concacaf Player of the Year.
The Champions League triumph sent Chivas to the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where Pulido started in a narrow second-round loss to Japanese side Kashima Antlers. Guadalajara’s appearance in the Club World Cup came midway through a 2018-19 Liga MX season in which Pulido had a team-best seven goals.
An imperious run of form in the fall of 2019 saw Pulido hit 12 goals in 18 Liga MX appearances. He ended the Clausura campaign atop the league’s scoring charts, netting a brace in his final Chivas appearance on Nov. 24 to spur a 3-1 defeat of Veracruz.
He notched six goals throughout the 2015-16 campaign as Olympiacos claimed the Super League title by a 30-point margin, with Pulido also competing in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League qualifying during his time with the club.
Following a successful stint at Tigres, Pulido signed for Greek outfit Levadiakos and scored on his Super League debut before transferring to Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in July of that year.
He made an instant impact by helping Tigres to the 2009 North American SuperLiga title, scoring in the shootout of the final against the Chicago Fire. Two years later, Pulido scored in the decisive second leg of the 2011 Liga MX Apertura Final as Tigres won its first league championship since 1982.
Pulido enjoyed a breakout 2013-14 campaign with 25 goals in all competitions during his final season at Tigres, scoring in the 2014 Copa MX Clausura Final to spark a 3-0 win over Oaxaca and finish as the tournament’s golden boot winner.
INTERNATIONAL (20 caps, 5 goals):
Internationally, Pulido has represented Mexico at the U-20, U-23 and senior levels. He led Mexico to the 2011 Concacaf U-20 Championship title, scoring three goals at the tournament, before making five appearances at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia as El Tri finished in third place.
Pulido and the Mexico U-23s hoisted the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament title at Children’s Mercy Park in April 2012. The semifinal and final matches both took place in Sporting’s home stadium as Pulido scored in a 3-1 semifinal victory over Canada. He finished as the competition’s leading scorer with five goals, helping Mexico book their place at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and guided El Tri to the Toulon Tournament championship later that year in France.
Pulido made his senior international debut on Jan. 29, 2014, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 friendly win against South Korea in San Antonio, Texas. He added another goal in a 2-2 friendly draw with the United States over two months later and was selected to Mexico’s 23-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Pulido scored his fifth Mexico goal in a friendly win over Iceland in February 2017 and played for El Tri in September 2018, featuring in friendly losses to Uruguay and the U.S.
Competed in the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals, playing in the semifinal round against Costa Rica, converting his penalty in the shootout. Played in four matches in the 2021 Gold Cup, coming off the bench in the final.
Born and raised in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, Pulido developed in the heralded Tigres UANL youth academy before breaking into the first team in 2009 as an 18-year-old.