Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes played it safe with Alan Pulido over the weekend, but now his star striker is set for a return as the team welcomes Orlando City to Children's Mercy Park on Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m. ET | FS1; full TV & streaming info).
"He will definitely be a part of the team tomorrow," Vermes told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. He added that although Pulido was theoretically available for Saturday's match against FC Dallas, a 3-2 loss, he opted to rest the 29-year-old to avoid re-aggravating a hamstring strain that had kept him out since Aug. 29.
Vermes did not get into specifics as to what Pulido's role would be after missing the last four games, while the Mexico international indicated he is ready for whatever is asked of him.
"I’m not sure what Peter’s decision will be, however I feel very good physically, I’ve made progress during these weeks," Pulido said through an interpreter. "I feel motivated, but again, I’m not sure how many minutes I will play — I’m there for the team, however they need me."
After a strong start to the season in which they collected 15 of the first 18 points on offer, Sporting have won just one of the following six games — the four most recent of which they played without Pulido. The Mexican forward admitted it was tough watching his team struggle while sidelined, but also expressed confidence that the time off would ultimately be beneficial as he looks to boost SKC's fortunes in the stretch run.
"Yeah, I felt some frustration that I couldn’t play," he said. "Maybe the team didn’t get the positive results that we wanted, but I feel good because I knew I had to take this rest, take this opportunity to recover to be able to come back from this injury, to be able to be motivated, and to go back to that winning streak that we had going for ourselves before I had to take off to recover."
For Pulido and Sporting, the hope will be that the time off allows him to return to the form that saw him contribute to at least one goal in each of the team's first five regular-season games (including three group-stage matches at the MLS is Back Tournament), for a total of three goals and four assists in that span. He also scored in SKC's MLS is Back quarterfinal loss to Philadelphia, but did not record a goal or an assist in the three games he played upon the team's return from Orlando.
Last week, Vermes described Pulido's injury as a hamstring strain that they were looking to avoid turning into something worse, and said that the club's record signing needed a break after starting all of Sporting's games up until that point. Pulido himself also suggested that the time off might indeed help him raise his game.
"It was hard [being out] because I’m a player that likes to play all the games. … I don’t like to rest, honestly, I like to play," Pulido said. "But it’s important to improve on my level — I had to take a break for that, so I could be able to come back 100% better for my team."