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Sporting KC’s Alan Pulido Has Knee Surgery

We look at a time table for his return and what it means to Kansas City.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting Kansas City
Trainers attend Sporting Kansas City forward Alan Pulido (9), after getting injured during the second half against Los Angeles FC at Children’s Mercy Park. Jun 26, 2021
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The bad news just keeps coming for Sporting Kansas City on Friday. First, the league announced midfielder Felipe Hernandez has been suspended for the remainder of the 2021 season and now it’s come out that Alan Pulido has been forced to have knee surgery.

While the original tweet from The Blue Testament’s own Thad Bell says three to four weeks, he confirmed it is actually three to five weeks. With today being October 8th, five weeks would be November 12th. The MLS Cup Playoffs start on the 20th. The number one seed would get a bye and not need to play until somewhere between the 25th and 30th. Kansas City are currently in second place, two points behind the Sounders who also have a game in hand.

With that timeline, it’s possible Pulido is available for the playoffs, but 90 minutes of fitness seems out of the question. If he were to miss the playoffs, that would be two for two. He missed the 2020 playoffs due to a knee injury as well. That knee injury was announced about a month later than this one. So there is hope.

Injury Timeline

Alan Pulido originally went down injured in the 85th minute against the Chicago Fire on September 11th in a game Sporting Kansas City were firmly in control of (they were up 2-0 since the 6th minute). Pulido pulled out his shin guards and threw them to the ground, making it seem like a potentially serious injury, though after the game Vermes said it was a “knock.”

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting Kansas City
(This is not the game in question.) Jun 26, 2021; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Alan Pulido (9) gets helped off the field, after getting injured during the second half against Los Angeles FC at Children’s Mercy Park.
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Pulido proceeded to miss the next two games before returning against FC Dallas on September 29th for a fitness appearance (just 12 minutes plus stoppage time). He then got in 32 minutes this past weekend in the 4-2 win over the Houston Dynamo. Sporting KC are on a break due to the FIFA International window and aren’t in action again until Sunday, October 17th against the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada (on turf at BC Place).

What Does this Mean for Sporting KC?

The forward depth is definitely questionable with Pulido being out. His primary backup has been Khiry Shelton, who has played well in his absence, though they are wildly different players. The team has won four of their last five, though mostly against subpar competition. They lost to the Seattle Sounders and their only win against a team in the playoffs was against Minnesota United who are in the seventh and final spot in the West.

Outside of Shelton, Wilson Harris is also available to play center forward. The rookie has two MLS starts, nine appearances and just 174 minutes (mostly in mop-up duty) for the team this year. He’s yet to score or assist, but in his defense, he’s rarely played as the sole striker and has yet to do so consistently with a full compliment of starters around him. He has been prolific in the USL Championship in past seasons.

Outside of that, Gadi Kinda has played the false 9 at times and Daniel Salloi has shifted to striker for a few minutes here and there during matches (like when Shelton was subbed off due to fatigue/injury against Dallas).

The team really has no one else that can play that role. Grayson Barber is primarily a winger and only has one start, five appearances and 110 MLS minutes. Tyler Freeman is away on loan in Germany. And of course Gianluca Busio, who played some false 9 to start the season while Pulido was injured, was sold to Venezia FC over the summer.

Another injury would be catastrophic. Here is to hoping for a speedy recovery for Pulido.