Alan Pulido - Mexico - close up - running

Alan Pulido on why he signed with Sporting Kansas City: I want to return to El Tri

LOS ANGELES — Alan Pulido's reasons for coming to Major League Soccer are many and varied, but among the biggest: a desire to suit up again for El Tri.

The 28-year-old forward, who gives Sporting Kansas City their first true striker since Dom Dwyer was sent to Orlando City SC two-and-a-half years ago, last saw the field for Mexico's national team in November 2018.

“[Uriel] Antuna was here, Jonathan dos Santos still plays here, and they play for the Mexican national team,” Pulido said in Spanish Thursday at MLS's Media and Marketing Tour at Banc of California Stadium. “It's a good thing that [El Tri manager] Tata Martino coached here, and I think he won MLS Cup [in 2018 with Atlanta United].

“The fact that he looks at MLS, that's very important, and part of the reason I chose to come to MLS is because of that. Because I want to return to the Mexico national team.”

Pulido has won 13 caps, scoring five goals, and was with the squad Miguel Herrera took to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, although he did not see any action. His profile rose greatly during last fall's Liga MX Apertura, when he scored 12 goals in 18 games to become the first Mexican player to win the league's Golden Boot since America's Angel Reyna netted 11 goals in the 2011 Clausura.

His nose for the net, along with his work rate and willingness to defend, spurred Sporting to break its club-record transfer fee, reported to be about $9.5 million, to reel him in. Peter Vermes' side, usually a trophy contender, slipped to 11th place in the Western Conference last year, and the lack of a top forward played a role in that.

He's part of a growing contingent of Mexican stars on MLS rosters, including LAFC forward Carlos Vela and dos Santos, LA Galaxy's midfield general. Forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is expected to be next.

That meant something to Pulido, too.

“The reason why I came to MLS is because competition level is higher,” he said. “Big names keep coming to the league, and, of course, that's a big motivation. Latino players, Mexican players, they choose to come here because of that. ... I'm happy to be here. I'm happy at the fact that there's more Mexicans with the arrival of Chicharito.”

He says “there were a lot of other MLS teams interested in me, that's true,” but Sporting Kansas City “showed the most interest.”

Pulido is part of a growing pipeline from Liga MX to MLS.

“The league here has changed a lot, and competitively,” he said. “But I chose to come here because I am the kind of player that enjoys challenges, and this is a challenge that makes me very happy.”

Mexican clubs, he said, “prefer foreign players in different positions, especially my position, which is center forward. But this league here, MLS, is an important window for us. It used to be that coming here was seen as taking a step back in our careers, but that is no longer the case.”

Vela's decision to come to LAFC from Real Sociedad in 2018 was a real coup for MLS, as would be Chicharito's expected arrival from Sevilla.

The Golden Boot race could have a distinct Mexican flair with Vela (MLS's MVP last season after scoring a record 34 goals), Chicharito (El Tri's all-time goals leader, with 52) and Pulido all likely in the mix.

“It would be a privilege to play against other Mexican players in an international league,” Pulido said “It'll be a pleasure to face Vela [and] Chicharito. ... I hope to take [the Golden Boot] away from Carlos Vela. Nothing is impossible.”