Derby ended up finishing sixth, losing to Fulham in their promotion playoff. Meanwhile Russell has become a hit among the SKC fanbase, revitalizing the team’s attack, leading Sporting to first place in the Western Conference – and earning himself a call-up to the Scottish national team.
Manager Alex McLeish named Russell to Scotland’s roster for their upcoming friendly at Mexico on June 2, an opportunity Russell credits to what’s been happening for him since he moved to KC.
“I think sometimes a change of scenery just does a player a world of good,” Russell told MLSsoccer.com. “I feel that weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders, and feel free to go and play again. I feel like that’s the main reason I’ve got my game back to where I feel it should be.”
Russell has expressed many times that moving to Sporting KC has restored the happiness of playing the game again, and you can see why. He’s become an integral part of the revamped KC front line, bagging five goals and three assists on the 2018 season so far. He’s also won three penalty kicks, two of them turning into goals.
He’s already surpassed his production for Derby County in their 2017-18 Championship campaign, and done so in 11 less appearances and a little more than 200 less minutes. That type of form is what has played into McLeish giving him a call up for this upcoming friendly.
If Russell appears, it will be his fifth cap for his national team since he was subbed on in their 6-0 rout of Gibraltar in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
"I’ve had caps before,” Said Russell. “I spoke that I still like I’ve got something to offer and I’m thankful that the manager has given me a chance to go back in there, and it’s up to me to go and show why I feel I should be in there."
Peter Vermes gave his stamp of approval, even though this match isn’t on a FIFA date – meaning Sporting KC don’t have to release him.
“In the past, we’ve always tried to create a good relationship with their federation, and in this moment I think we’re doing the right thing,” said Vermes. “It proves that we want to have a working relationship and we respect the situation.”
While Russell is happy to be playing at a high level, he also understands that there is still plenty left to do.
“I still feel there is more to come,” Russell said. “But it’s pleasing how well we’ve started as a team, and to be a part of that. I just need to keep working hard.”