Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes doesn’t suffer substandard seasons, and has got himself a major No. 9.
Alan Pulido, the reigning top scorer in Liga MX, is KC’s newest star, the Mexican striker now boasting the title of club record transfer for an MLS side (One report says it’s near $10 million).
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Pulido comes from Chivas Guadalajara, and will turn 29 in early March. He has five goals in 13 caps for El Tri, and is coming off a career-high 12 goals in 18 matches during the Apertura season.
He has 71 career club goals, most coming in Liga MX. He spent two seasons with Olympiacos in Greece, scoring six times with three assists in 17 appearances.
“We are very excited to add Alan Pulido to our roster ahead of the new season,” Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes said. “He is a winner, has a terrific work rate and embodies all of the attributes we value at our club. We also want to thank Chivas for being an incredibly professional partner and appreciate the relationship we have created with them. Alan is ready for this new challenge and looks forward to getting started with us on the field in January.”
Sporting finished last 10 points out of a playoff spot, unfamiliar territory for them in a league which makes it pretty easy to make the postseason. This should help, though it’s worth noting that his big season was by far his most productive.
On Saturday, Chivas Guadalajara topped basement-dwelling Veracruz 3-1 en route to a jump to 10th-placed in the Liga MX table. They had dominated possession in the match, but aside from an Alan Pulido brace, Chivas was struggling to truly put the game to bed.
Then, in the 94th minute, with Veracruz goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado up for a corner, Chivas found its moment. For goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez, it was the moment of a lifetime.
After collecting the ball after Veracruz’s corner came to nothing, Rodriguez saw the open net on the far side of the pitch. With defenders realizing what was about to happen and sprinting back to cover, the Chivas goalkeeper took aim and punted the ball as far as he could at the open net. The ball dropped just over the head of the last man and bounded into the open net for the 27-year-old’s first professional goal.
“I never imagined making a goal, not even in training,” Rodriguez said after the match. “I don’t know how to react. I don’t know what it is to score a goal. I had never scored a goal in my life!”
The last place San Jose Earthquakes have a new direction for the future.
With Mikael Stahre sent packing less than a month ago, San Jose announced the hire of former Chivas Guadalajara head coach Matias Almeyda. The 44-year-old Argentinian won the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League with Chivas, qualifying for the 2018 Club World Cup, but departed after clashes with the front office regarding offseason player recruitment and the planning of the preseason schedule.
However, Almeyda left his mark on Chivas. Joining in 2015, the club was nearing relegation. He won the Copa MX in his first year in charge, and won the Supercopa MX in 2016. He won the Copa MX yet again in 2017, and then earned the league title with a 4-3 aggregate score over Tigres, giving Chivas its second-ever double, the first club to achieve that multiple times.
San Jose hopes that Almeyda can replicate that success he had at Chivas with the Earthquakes.
“What we saw in Matias was a coach that brought success by creating a culture we strive to emulate,” Earthquakes GM Jesse Fioranelli said in a statement. “He has demonstrated leadership qualities in Argentina with River Plate and Banfield, as well as in Mexico with Chivas. He has always had a winning mentality, both as a player and a coach, and most importantly, he is someone that knows how to redirect a team in a difficult situation with a commitment to a distinct style of play and youth development.
“Matias came here because he welcomes the challenge of helping our organization open a new chapter after a grueling season. He had several other opportunities available to him from clubs and national teams around the world, but made it very clear the Earthquakes were the one he wanted to lead.”
During the height of his playing days, Almeyda played for River Plate, Lazio, Sevilla, and Inter Milan. He made 35 appearances for the Argentinian national team and featured in two World Cup squads.
Liga MX’s Apertura season is off and running with all 18 clubs partaking in a match this weekend.
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Club Tijuana 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara
Scoreless at the half, the weekend’s marquee match sprang to life in the final 45. Juan Martin Lucero gave TJ a 54th minute lead before Jose Van Rankin knotted it up five minutes later.
Lucero assisted Jose Rivero’s 75th minute winner, which was helped in its status when Michael Perez took a red card in the 80th.
Cruz Azul 3-0 Puebla
Elias Hernandez scored a goal and added an assist, and Milton Caraglio put one of his five shots on goal into the net. Andres Renteria also scored in the win.
Tigres 2-0 Leon
Andre-Pierre Gignac scored, and Lucas Zelarayan marked a goal and an assist in the win.
Necaxa 2-1 Club America
Toluca 2-0 Morelia
Santos Laguna 2-1 Lobos BUAP
Pachuca 0-1 Monterrey
Veracruz 0-2 Pumas UNAM
Atlas 0-0 Queretaro
Matias Almeyda’s body didn’t need the intensity of penalty kicks, though he’ll gladly accept the outcome after Chivas Guadalajara clinched a Club World Cup berth by beating Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
“I finished last season with five ulcers,” Almeyda told ESPN’s Tom Marshall, noting his grandmother is ill as well.
Chivas reached a pair of finals before this tournament, and had a number of other obstacles including protests of the club’s owners and disappointment in player recruitment.
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Still, the long-haired Argentine put together a winning CCL team. The former River Plate and Banfield manager spent most of his playing career in Spain, Italy, and Argentina, and is happy to pick up a big win in a new(ish) country.
“It’s beautiful. When I gave my first press conference I was unknown in Mexico and it wasn’t easy,” Almeyda said. “I spoke that day about what I wanted to achieve here and God has helped me achieve what I promised.”
The 44-year-old won Serie A as a player with Lazio, and has two Copa MX and a Liga MX title to go with his CCL crown. He’s a name to watch moving forward, and — as the kids say, don’t at me — a sneaky interesting name for the USMNT given his ability to marshal an undermanned unit.