The most difficult chore was finding patience, Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi says. When he arrived in the city three years ago, his first trip to the United States from his native Hungary, he identified the path toward stardom — a year in the academy, a promotion to the senior team and soon thereafter a cemented spot in the lineup.
It wasn’t that simple. It so rarely is.
A year after signing the fourth homegrown contract in Sporting KC history in January 2016, Salloi had yet to see the field in an MLS match.
“I didn’t take it well last year. I didn’t play, so I felt frustrated by that,” Salloi said. “But this year, I react well. I try to be patient. (Coach) Peter (Vermes) tells me the chance is going to come. I trust that.”
Suddenly, that chance could come sooner rather than later.
Sporting KC leading scorer Gerso Fernandes is listed as questionable for Thursday’s home game against Philadelphia, though a shoulder injury appears likely to leave him out of the starting lineup. Salloi will be near the top of the list of potential replacements, perhaps the first choice.
After Fernandes injured his right shoulder in the first half of Saturday’s draw against Portland, Salloi subbed into the match. He scored the game-tying goal soon after.
“The movement that he had off the ball for that goal was world class,” Vermes said. “And it was an excellent finish.”
Even after that 55-minute appearance Saturday, Salloi (pronounced shallow-EE) has only 130 career MLS minutes to his name. He is a relatively new commodity to the senior team.
But not to the franchise. He was a long-term investment, and an innovative one at that. Sporting KC recruited Salloi to the academy in 2014, even though he had never visited the United States, let alone Kansas City. The club used academy coach Istvan Urbanyi, a former Hungarian international, to make the pitch.
The plan was to have Salloi spend enough time in the academy to earn homegrown status, therefore securing his MLS rights.
One problem: The player wasn’t interested.
“At first I said no. Kansas? Uh, no,” Salloi said. “After like two weeks, my dad brought it up again, and I said, let’s do it.
“And I loved everything about it, pretty much right away. Everything I saw, it was like in the movies.”
Salloi, 20, blossomed in the academy. After only 17 months in Kansas City, he signed a professional contract. But he spent 2016 bouncing back and forth between clubs, including a loan to a Hungarian club.
“This is where I want to be,” Salloi said. “I love this league. I want to play in this league. Even though it’s only been three years, this feels like a second home.”
He soon might play more often, though it certainly isn’t a guarantee.
The appearance Saturday should work in his favor. Salloi’s goal was a work of art, starting with the way he deftly collected a long pass from Roger Espinoza and concluded with his top-shelf finish.
“He knows this, because we’ve been talking about this — his progression has been very good,” Vermes said. “There’s always aspects that a player needs to continue to get better at, but if there’s one thing that I’ve said about him, and I’ll keep repeating it, is that anytime he’s in or around the box, he’s deadly. He has a good goal-scorer’s mentality. He wants to score.”