While splashy newcomers Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez played a major role Sporting Kansas City's record-setting offensive campaign in 2018, the club's biggest goal producer was a young man the club didn't even project as a starter heading into the season.
Hungarian 22-year-old Daniel Salloi finished with a team-leading 11 goals after scoring four in the club's final three regular season games, and then hit the net thrice more in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Yet after helping SKC post a team-record 65 league goals, the Homegrown Player signing insists he feels no major burden to repeat his success as a known commodity in 2019.
“I think it’s not pressure, it’s confidence,” Salloi told MLSsoccer.com this week in a phone interview. “I know what I can do, and my teammates and coaches know that. So I think it gives me a little bit of extra confidence that I’ll be able to provide that. I’m not trying to top my last year, I’m trying to repeat it.”
Salloi admits 2018 was a bit of a personally focused year. He wanted to break into the Hungary national team set-up, and he did, earning a couple of call-ups to the senior team. He cemented his place on the SKC squad as a starter, and almost singlehandedly led them to first place in the Western Conference with his late season scoring flourish.
Now in 2019, he wants trophies. Big ones.
“The whole team, the whole organization was really bummed out at that Portland loss,” Salloi said of the club's defeat in the Western Conference Championship to the Timbers. “I think we can bounce back and have a good season.”
Winners of four U.S. Open Cups, two MLS Cups and one Supporters' Shields, SKC will have four trophies in play in 2019 with their inclusion in the Concacaf Champions League beginning next month.
“We’re planning to make a run in the Champions League,” Salloi said. “So hopefully that’s going to happen. It motivates us that we could be the first team [from MLS] to win it.”
Aside from those lofty team goals, Salloi also believes there's still plenty of room to grow on the pitch and in the dressing room.
“I want to improve overall as a player,” Salloi said. “But also, I want to become a leader on the team. Not just with goals, but part of the leaders on the team. I want to join Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi, and follow them and try to do the same.”