We have watched him become the team Golden Boot winner and then have two disappointing seasons. Is 2021 the year of Salloi’s reemergence?
After becoming a big Sporting Kansas City fan in 2013, I decided a few seasons later to take the risk and drop some money on a personalized jersey. The year was 2017 and I knew who I wanted to rep on the back of my kit. It had to be Daniel Salloi. He had just started getting quality minutes with the first team and things were looking good. Always one to hype a player that not everyone was backing, he was the perfect choice for me, but the story of Daniel Salloi as a part of the Sporting Kansas City organization starts way before those first team minutes in 2017.
The story of Daniel Salloi as a part of Kansas City’s soccer story started way back in 2014 when a young Hungarian traveled to America as a foreign exchange student. While attending Blue Valley Northwest High School, he played with Sporting Kansas City’s Academy U-18 team and scored 21 goals in 28 matches. That’s a pretty successful start.
The following year, Salloi returned to Hungary and played for Ujpest FC’s senior team. While playing in Hungary he scored 7 goals and had 4 assists across all competitions. Things were looking good.
The 2016 season saw Salloi’s return to Kansas City. While he didn’t have any minutes with the first team, he was available as a sub in one match in March. He spent most of the first half of the season playing for the Swope Park Rangers. From March to June before being sent back to Hungary on loan, he scored 4 goals and had 3 assists in 10 appearances for the Swope Park Rangers. Continued positive results.
To this point, it looked like Salloi was going to become a goal scoring threat for the first team, but it’s always hard to tell if that ability and success will transfer to the first team or not. 2017 gave Sporting Kansas City fans the first opportunity to see Salloi in action for the first team. That opportunity came early in the season when he was used as a sub in a match against Colorado in April. He scored his first goal for the first team in a U.S. Open Cup match against Minnesota in June. His first MLS goal came on July 1 against Portland. He scored again July 11 in the Open Cup, converted his penalty in a shootout in the Open Cup in August and scored another MLS goal in September and then scored again in the Open Cup final in October. He finished the 2017 season with 12 starts in 22 MLS appearances and played in his first MLS Playoff match in the loss to Houston. Looks like things were going pretty great so far.
I don’t think many people, myself excluded, knew what 2018 was to bring. Personally, I had a feeling that the 2018 season was going to be the breakout star-making season for Salloi. In fact, I bet my sister while we were in Arizona for Sporting Preseason in February that he would score at least 10 goals that season. She said I was crazy. (Spoiler alert: I love that pair of shoes she had to buy me!) During the 2018 season, Salloi started 26 of his 29 MLS appearances. He scored a goal in April against the Galaxy. Had two goals in May, one against Colorado and one against Atlanta. In June, he scored an MLS goal against Minnesota and another against Houston. Between those games, he scored twice in an Open Cup match against Dallas. Another two goals came in July, one against Real Salt Lake and one against Dallas. In August he bagged two goals against Vancouver, then in October he had two more, another against Dallas and one against LAFC. When the playoffs came around he scored twice against Real Salt Lake on November 11 and scored in the playoff loss to Portland on November 29. Through the season, he scored 16 total goals with 14 of those in the MLS regular season and playoff matches. He was also able to record 7 assists as well. These accomplishments led to Salloi being awarded the Golden Boot for Sporting KC for the year. Things couldn’t get much better!
If no one was prepared for the absolute rocket to the top in 2018, then it was certain that no one was prepared for what was to come in 2019. After the success of 2018, Salloi became the face of the team. He was the player featured on ads and national media posts. It was supposed to be another year to showcase the young Homegrown success. Things could not have gone worse. He started in 16 of 28 appearances in the MLS season and only scored one goal and had one assist. That goal didn’t come until the end of the season against Portland on September 29. He did feature in 2 Concacaf Champion’s League matches and played one Open Cup match, but it was clear that something had gone terribly wrong. Each game without a goal you could see his confidence shrinking. He wasn’t taking shots that were available. He was just flat out missing shots that the season before were no brainer goals. No one had the answer and the frustration from fans was palpable in the stadium and loud in online posts. Salloi seemed to be broken. Was this just a fluke season? It could only go up from here. Right?!
Well, we all know what happened next. 2020. A year like no other. Unfortunately for Salloi that meant another year of frustration, lack of confidence and disappointment. He started in only 1 match and only appeared in 7 during the shortened season, playing only 165 minutes of the MLS regular season and 81 minutes of the MLS is Back Tournament. No goals. No assists. No confidence. It looked like we may have seen the end of Salloi’s success in Kansas City. Things were looking bleak.
All of that leads us here. 2021. A new year and a new season. In the two matches this year, Salloi has started both and played 151 minutes. In that time he has a goal and an assist. It is true that he is getting more time because of the limited availability of both Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell, but it seems as though he has used this opportunity to the max. He has shown that he is clearly playing with more confidence this season and looks like he has some real fight to keep that starting position. Salloi told Nate Bukaty on Sports Radio 810 earlier this month, “Scoring a goal in general will always make me super happy, but we know that the recent past hasn’t been in my favor or how I planned it. I worked really hard in the offseason and preseason and I think the staff and the players have seen that. They see it, but at the same time you still have to prove it on the field. A goal is a little bit of that proof. This is only the start, but I’m happy because that rock is starting to roll down my shoulders and it’s making me feel better.”
The real question is what does Peter Vermes do when Russell is available to start and is 90 minutes fit? Has Salloi earned the starting left wing job or does Khiry Shelton move over and play left wing with Russell on the right? I guess we wait and see, but one thing is for sure, Salloi has made it a tough decision. In the radio interview, Salloi said “This year, if I can get flying again, I think this (struggle) could end up helping my career. You learn to come out from negative moments. It’s really difficult as a professional athlete. It should have taken me less time to do this, but life happens and no one is the same. I’m trying to get back into form and I feel confident now.” Are we all possibly witnessing the reemergence of Daniel Salloi? You know I sure hope so! It is definitely too early to tell, but things are looking up.