After missing his team's Round One penalty-shootout triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs with a knee injury, Alan Pulido is line to make a much-anticipated return for Sporting Kansas City.
Speaking with reporters on his Monday video call, SKC head coach Peter Vermes did not list Pulido among the players who would be unavailable when asked about the status of the star Mexico international, suggesting Pulido's return is imminent just in time for Thursday's massive Western Conference Semifinals bout with the Loons (8:30 pm ET | FOX).
"In regards to our team everybody's available for selection except for [Graham] Zusi, [Felipe] Gutierrez and Matt Besler at this moment," Vermes said. "Matt's the closest one of those three guys, he's still dealing with his concussion, but he's definitely a lot closer than he has been."
If that means Pulido is indeed set the feature, it could prove to be a significant development for an SKC side that has been operating without their marquee offseason acquisition and best goal-scorer since he last started an MLS match on October 28. Pulido only made 11 starts for Sporting this year, but was plenty productive when he was on the field, scoring six goals and dishing out five assists in 962 minutes.
"You don't replace him. He's a special player within our team," Vermes said. "As you all know it was a big objective of ours last season to add him to the team. So you don't replace him. Yeah, this is the important time, this is what you fight all year long to get to, to have those players be in your team and help you along the way. That's why we do what we do."
Exactly what role Pulido plays, however, remains to be seen as far as how many minutes he's fit to play or whether he starts the match or enters as a sub.
Vermes said he's had honest discussions with Pulido and the medical staff, but added he's taking everything into account in terms what type of workload he ultimately entrusts to his standout striker.
"I don't ever want to put a player in a position, I never have, I never will, where they are not prepared to go and play from a physical perspective," Vermes said. "And when you make those decisions it's not just me, it's the medical staff, it's also the player involved. The one thing about Alan where the difference is, is if Alan was 20 years old and he just came to our club, it would be a difficult decision on how I would make my decision with him because I probably wouldn't have enough experience with him and he also wouldn't have had, being so young if he was 20, not knowing how to deal with injuries and whether he should or shouldn't play.
"Whereas when a guy is his age, 28, a seasoned veteran like he his, I can sit down and have a good discussion with him along with the medical staff and make a decision, because I feel the player has a lot of experience and is always going to be honest about where he is physically for himself for the team for all of it. So it's the one thing that I feel very confident in with Alan just because of his experience. At the same time, I'm always going to err towards the side of always being conservative in situations like this, that's why he wasn't a part of the team [last game]. This week, probably different, just because he's progressed incredibly well."