We have all been there. Multiple times. Whether it was the competition for your dream job, or the person who got all the breaks (or sure seemed to), or the person who got the last of your favorite at your favorite donut place … on YOUR birthday … We all know the frustration. The “Can’t things just be easy?” The anger.
For the professional athlete – even the established, high-paid ones – anger can be present. One season, you score the most goals for your team, the next you don’t seem to have a starting job. For the young athlete even. Even one seemingly on the cusp of his dream. One season, you break through to show well for a team desperate for a goal-scorer, the next you are seemingly on the outside looking in.
A former professional himself, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes knows it too. When asked what is toughest for a player in a situation where he has to compete for his spot, Vermes gave strong insight.
“It’s two things: Sometimes players don’t realize that the coaching staff wants the best for every player. You want every player to be the best, because if they are, that’s great. Sometimes they think you are out to get them and they make it personal, and it’s not,” said Vermes who played in Hungary, The Netherlands, Spain, and the U.S. “The other is that sometimes what can happen is that there’s nothing wrong with being angry, there’s nothing wrong with being upset with the situation.”
Sporting’s 21-year-old left-winger/center forward Daniel Salloi is not angry (or his kind demeanor masks it well). After starting 12 of 22 appearances last season in Sporting blue, recording three goals and two assists, plus three goals and a penalty conversion in U.S. Open Cup play, Salloi seemed destined for a plethora of minutes in 2018. Vermes even said the Hungarian native had a “breakout season.”
“It was a good year last year; it’s going to be really difficult to be on the team this year because we signed a lot of good players,” said Salloi, perhaps the best “natural” finisher on the roster. “That’s going to be a big competition, so I have to be ready and I have to fight for my position again. But I did last year too, so I’m ready to do it again.”
Salloi battled through the Sporting KC Academy system for two years, which earned him a homegrown player contract in 2016. Then he battled that season on the second team Swope Park Rangers and on loan in Hungary.
Having to battle “Again” can be especially frustrating for such a young prospect. However, Salloi can take solace in the fact that his immediate future is secure after signing a new contract with the club that runs through 2019, with options for 2020 and 2021. Converting under pressure - a penalty in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal shootout and scoring the game-winner in the final – will do that.
After spending the offseason at home in Hungary, playing with the U-21 Hungarian National Team, and traveling with his sister to Madrid to catch Real Madrid and Paris to catch PSG, Salloi has a different battle beckoning than ever before. Seasoned European Scotsman Johnny Russell and Frenchman Yohan Croizet, as well as American Khirty Shelton, have brought in and have played in front of Salloi in the preseason.
“It is going to be difficult because they are very good players, and they showed it in preseason,” Salloi stated. “So I’ll have to even step up more. I think I can do it.”
What, exactly, does Vermes want more of from Salloi?
“One thing he got better at last year as the year went on was that, every position is a two-way position. When younger players are coming in, sometimes they think that they are only one or the other – I’m a defender. I’m a forward, so I just attack. – it’s an area, the tactics of it, not just going out and playing,” said Vermes. “But there’s a role and responsibility with your position. [Daniel] needs to keep growing in that area on both sides of the ball. He wants to learn; he has a good mentality for it.”
It’s true. Responsibility comes with anger or frustration or any strong emotion. It is the most important aspect of those feelings: what you do with them.
“[A player has] to channel the energy into making sure that when you do get your opportunity, you are right physically and mentally. Sometimes athletes can lose sight of that piece. And then they get their chance, and they have a nightmare. And now all of a sudden it validates the reason why they are not playing,” Vermes explained. “The coaching staff is not trying to validate that, they actually want the player to come in and do well.”
And so does a parent. A boss. Maybe not the one competing for your job though…
Salloi’s mission is clear.
“[Peter] wants me to work hard, be patient. He said as I got my chance last year, he’s going to expect me to do the same this year…,” said Salloi. “However it works out – maybe I’m going to start on the bench, maybe I’m going to [be] in the starting eleven – I’ll have to do my best and do what I have to do to stay in the starting 11. I’m ready.”