In the midst of a troubling season, one potential shining light has been the return from long-term injuries by Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda. Neither has fully returned to form, but after missing all of 2022, it was exciting to think of the impact they could have. They started together for the first time this past Sunday and it coincided with Sporting Kansas City picking up their first win in 11 tries as they downed the Seattle Sounders in their stadium 2-1.
Then, reporter Kery Ruiz, added more to the long-standing rumors that Chivas Guadalajara want to get Alan Pulido back in the fold.
Alan Pulido | Exclusiva
Hierro busca el regreso de Pulido a Chivas. Pulido está en pláticas de renovación con Sporting KC pero no han llegado a un acuerdo y esto quiere aprovecharlo Chivas. Están dispuestos a pagar a KC para que salga en verano; su contrato vence en diciembre. pic.twitter.com/WXiyoL5Fge
— Kery!News (@KeryNews) May 9, 2023
Per Twitter’s translation feature:
“Hierro seeks the return of Pulido to Chivas. Pulido is in renewal talks with Sporting KC but they have not reached an agreement and Chivas wants to take advantage of this. They’re willing to pay KC to come out in the summer; His contract expires in December.”
Hierro is Fernando Hierro, the Sporting Director at Chivas in Liga MX.
Additionally, Ruiz is adding to his reporting of ongoing extension conversations between Pulido and Sporting KC (a rumor the KC Soccer Journal was able to confirm directly with Peter Vermes back on media day). Now though, it’s been months and no new deal is in place and according to Ruiz, “they are willing to pay KC” to get Pulido out of his deal this summer.
Let’s break down what this all means and if Sporting KC should do it.
First, a Contract Explainer
Right now, Alan Pulido is under contract through 2023 with no options in his contract. He is a Designated Player, both by way of his large transfer fee (apparently confirmed as $8 million by Mike Illig today) and his large salary $2.2 million as of 2022.
Because Pulido is out of contract after the season, in soccer he can sign a pre-contract this summer, about six months out from the contract expiration (which is likely December 31st). That pre-contract leaves him on Sporting KC’s roster through the remainder of the year but means he would leave after the season and Kansas City would get no compensation back.
That’s after an $8m fee and about $8.8m in salary. $16.8 million for, up to this point, missing over half the games he was under contract for.
Should SKC Sell? – Part 1: Giving Up
If Sporting KC sell Pulido this summer, it’s hard not to look at it as punting on the 2023 season. Some may say it’s time to punt with a 1-7-3 record through 11 games and sitting dead last in the standings. Almost one-third of all the 2023 regular season games have been played and SKC have a steep hill to climb (though they are stunningly, still only six points out of the stupidly expanded playoffs).
If Pulido is gone, the backup striker, Willy Agada is already out. By the middle of summer, he may be close to returning, but with this team’s luck that won’t be the case and he won’t be anywhere near full fitness.
That moves this discussion down to who is third on the depth chart. That’s likely either new signing Stephen Afrifa or jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, Khiry Shelton. Neither are great options to lead the line. The team could go with playing Erik Thommy or Gadi Kinda out of position, but again, those feel like band aids.
Should SKC Sell? – Part 2: Something for Nothing
Now, there is some logic to getting rid of Pulido while he still has value. If he doesn’t want to re-sign, or at least not at whatever wages are being offered to him, getting some return on that $16.8m million in payouts on a season that is likely to be lost anyways, makes some sense.
What it really comes down to is, how much is Chivas offering? If it’s just hundreds of thousands of dollars, like what Sporting KC paid to get Johnny Russell early, I’m not sure that’s worth it. Vermes seems to be putting everything on the fact that he was missing two of his Designated Players and that will make all the difference. And it may.
Saving half of Pulido’s 2023 salary and getting a fee for a 32-year-old striker, isn’t nothing. The number Chivas is offering is important.
Should SKC Sell? – Part 3: The Replacement
The real key for me is, do they have a replacement lined up? Vermes was asked about adding another striker with Agada out at press availability on Tuesday, and he was talking about domestic options since we are outside of a transfer window. He said, “we’re still looking.”
Vermes on adding a striker with Agada out: "We're still looking… Afrifa has come in, it's a shame that he couldn't be with us from the beginning because I think he would be in a really good place at this moment."
"We have the ability to do something domestically." #SportingKC
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) May 10, 2023
A domestic signing will not cut it. If the team is going to replace Pulido with a big signing, potentially meaning another big transfer fee, then that would make everything make more sense.
The summer transfer window is the secondary one in Major League Soccer, but it’s the primary one for many leagues around the world. Teams are more willing to part with their players because there is a larger window of time to replace them. Many players are out of contract in the summer too, meaning a fee may not be necessary to pry someone free.
The question then becomes, does ownership want Vermes around long-term and do they want him handling the start of a rebuild if what he built is completely in the tank still? I feel like that’s a hard sell.
So, what is going to happen?
My gut tells me the results in the coming weeks and months will matter a ton. If Sporting KC go on a run and are competing, I think it’ll be hard for Vermes to sell Pulido. If the team is out of it, then he might as well sell and get something back.
The problem is, teams are rarely out of it in MLS. That’s the byproduct of nine of 14 teams making it in. Statistically, Sporting KC will almost surely be alive, and Vermes will always believe he can pull it off. I don’t believe Pulido will be sold, but money talks. If Chivas wants to overpay, KC would be dumb not to sell.