Peter Vermes has seen all the iterations of Major League Soccer — from 1.0 as a player to 2.0 and now 3.0 as a coach and sporting director at Sporting Kansas City.
In this new world MLS, with an injection of spending across the league through allocation money mechanisms, Sporting Kansas City has largely been on the sideline as that small-spending, small market club that’s struggled previously to attract big-name foreign players to bypass New York and Los Angeles for the midwest.
Sporting Kansas City made a splash Tuesday with the signing of Mexican striker Alan Pulido, a club record-breaking transfer fee reportedly in the neighborhood of $9.5 million going to Chivas Guadalajara.
Now, Sporting has jumped in the deep end of the pool head first and Vermes said there’s no going back.
“We’re in this world now and we’re going to continue to be in this world,” he said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
The 28-year-old Pulido comes to MLS in his prime, having just won the Golden Boot as the top goalscorer in Liga MX with 12 goals in 18 matches. He’s said he has accomplished all he can in Guadalajara and it’s now time for a new challenge, new goals to set.
“My dream would be to, of course, fight for MLS Cup, to win the title,” he said through a translator. “There’s no bigger dream or motivation than that. And of course, I want to bring joy to the fans with my goals. I’d like to grow personally and I would like to be MLS’ top goalscorer. That would be a big dream of mine.”
Of course, that would mean beating out fellow Mexican international Carlos Vela of LAFC, the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner.
And like Vela, Pulido would like to be a household name in his new league.
“The biggest challenge will be to establish a name here in MLS,” he said. “Obviously in Mexico people already know me, but MLS is a completely new league for me. I will need to develop and grow with the team of course and that will then lead to my individual development. My goals are very clear. Like I said, I want to win MLS Cup for Kansas City. And I want to be remembered for years to come. I want to be an important player for this team.”
Pulido has been utilized in different ways throughout his career, as a center forward and a false No. 9 at times.
But Vermes said there’s no question Pulido will be a true No. 9 at Sporting Kansas City and said his skillset makes him a perfect fit in Kansas City.
The team can play through Pulido, he can score with both feet, is good in the air and he’s not afraid to “stick his nose on the end of the ball and at the same time, he can hit the strike distance as well.”
“It’s just all the qualities that we look for the end of the day — his work ethic, his competitiveness, his qualities with the ball as far as scoring, all those pieces fit right into what we were looking for,” Vermes said. “And then the last piece is he’s here in our region. He already understands what it’s like to play in this region.”
There were rumors of other MLS suitors — the San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire chief among them, but Sporting Kansas City stepped to the forefront. Pulido said he was motivated through the process “so much so I ended up winning the Golden Boot in Liga MX.”
Then Pulido said, he was showed the structure of the club and was sold.
“The US offers a different quality of life, and that is something that motivates me personally, that aspect brings tranquility and it helps for me to develop professionally,” Pulido said. “Also the league is growing more competitively each year and it’s becoming a more visible league, which is something that drove me to to come to Sporting Kansas City.”