KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Daniel Salloi’s parents waited until the waning weeks of the MLS season to make the trip from Hungary to visit him.
It wasn’t that Istvan and Csilla Salloi didn’t want to see their son. But more than that, they wanted to see Daniel – a fourth-generation footballer – on the pitch for Sporting Kansas City.
“Of course, for parents, it’s amazing – because it’s not a small trip,” Istvan Salloi told MLSsoccer.com on Sunday after watching his son score in a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy. “We wanted to plan a specific time to see him. We told him, when he wanted us to come, ‘OK, you will play, or we don’t come. We don’t come for nothing, or just to see the city. We want to see you on the field.”
They came to Children’s Mercy Park for three matches in nine days only to be disappointed the first time out when a hip injury kept the younger Salloi out of last weekend’s 3-1 league victory over New England. But in the next two, they saw him on the pitch – and saw nothing but success.
“We started the week like hell, because Daniel got injured and didn’t play the first game,” the elder Salloi said. “Then we went to the heaven Wednesday and today.”
First, Daniel came off the bench to score the eventual match-winner at midweek, as Sporting won their third Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in six years by beating the New York Red Bulls 2-1. He followed that up on Sunday with the opening goal just 18 minutes in.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “I really wanted to show them the stadium and the atmosphere here. First game when they game here against New England, I was injured and so I couldn’t play. But after that I got healthy, and I’m very happy that I could score both games. Sporting said they’re getting green cards for my family because they’re good luck charms.”
He was joking about that last part, but the younger Salloi did come up big – and become a title-winning club hero in the process – while his parents were watching.
“We are proud of him on the field, but we are also proud of him off the pitch,” Istvan Salloi said. “We met a lot of people in the club, in the city, and people like him because he’s polite, he’s smiling and he’s also a good player.
“So his mother also now is relaxed, even though he’s far from us. It’s something amazing. In the morning, after the cup final, my wife woke me up: ‘Listen. Did we dream? Is it true? That’s real life?’ So we’re very proud.”
Daniel Salloi is in the unusual position of being a Homegrown Player for Sporting, after spending a year in the Kansas City area as an exchange student, a trip set up so he could join the club’s academy and eventually sign for manager and technical director Peter Vermes.
“I wanted Daniel to get out of Eastern Europe to pick up some different mentality – a winner mentality, which is very good here. And also you need a little physical part of the game, because he’s a technical guy,” Istvan Salloi said. “So I think it was good, and I trusted Peter.”
That all came about because of connections even older than the 21-year-old forward: His father, Vermes and then-SKC academy coach Istvan Urbanyi were all teamates at Hungarian side Gyori ETO in the late 1980s.
“The big thing is that his father and I played together when I was in Hungary,” Vermes said. “That’s kind of how the situation occurred for Daniel to come here as an exchange student and to come to our academy. It’s worked out great; he’s obviously grown from that time period.
“He’s been learning all the time, but it’s his love for the game, his passion to be the best that he can be – that’s why he continues to evolve as a player like he is.”
Salloi’s movement off the ball has been a big part of his development – and he showed it this week, setting up both of his goals by getting into dangerous spaces to finish off well-delivered passes.
“He’s becoming more and more comfortable on the field and he’s getting more time on it, which is big for a player his age and his experience level,” said right back Graham Zusi. “Every time he steps on the field, to his credit, he’s really been a sponge and taken in the experience, and he’s gotten better and better."