Sporting KC’s Daniel Salloi says he’s gaining confidence
Sporting Kansas City’s first playoff win in five years arrived last November off Daniel Salloi’s foot, though the 22-year-old leading scorer never saw the ball hit the net. That was by choice. He punctuated a semifinal knockout of Real Salt Lake with a no-look goal, something resembling the bat-flip of a home-run hitter.
Maybe it’s been forgotten, or maybe as he visits Salt Lake on Saturday for the first time since that moment, he will be a marked man. Maybe the crowd will even boo.
And maybe, just maybe, Salloi will relocate the conviction that sparked that sequence.
It’s been a grind. He’s honest about that. A year after leading Sporting Kansas City with 11 goals, he is stuck on zero midway through the season. Injuries have played a factor. Confidence has, too. The game can be punishing.
“It’s been difficult because yes, you want to get goals, and you care about it,” Salloi said. “You’re judged by your statistics and how you perform. I want to score goals — to show that I’m doing everything right. The goals are a secure point for a forward that he’s doing right.”
Inside the Sporting KC walls? More to it.
After two straight matches, coach Peter Vermes has praised Salloi, not once mentioning that he nearly scored. He pointed to Salloi’s work ethic in the U.S. Open Cup match, and then to his defensive assignment in Columbus over the weekend. In one occasion that Vermes introduced, Salloi prevented an enticing chance, stepping in front of a pass that would have set up Harrison Afful with a clear look at goal.
These are the signs that Salloi is close to rediscovering his 2018 form. And he is just that, Vermes says.
Close. He feels it. His manager sees it.
“I think last weekend was one of the better games he’s played,” Vermes said, adding, “We need to get results, so however guys can help with that — whether they’re scoring goals or helping to stop goals or what have you — that’s what we need.”
Coming off his breakthrough MLS season, Salloi began preseason taking an elbow to the lip. He required stitches. He also had a bit of an undesired omen.
An adductor irritation limited his availability late in training camp. A high ankle sprain kept him out a month early in the season. A groin injury robbed him of a chance to make a couple of spot starts.
Naturally, the combination turned training sessions into time spent regaining fitness as much as form. But on Friday, he said he’s completely healthy. Completely focused on the latter.
“I’m very happy that I’m not hurt anymore and I can practice 100 percent with the team and play,” Salloi said. I think that’s the most important part. I hope that I can get on good form and start scoring, sticking in the starting lineup and start winning games. That’s really what my focus is on right now.”
Vermes believes just one goal will prompt a snowball effect. It’s why over the last two weeks, he’s worked to inject confidence. Teammates have, too.
Their primary argument: Salloi busted out of a slump before — during the middle of last summer — and responded with the best goal-scoring run of his career.
“I’m the type of player who gets a lot of help from that,” Salloi said. “This is why I’m trying to feel the same as last year, and I think the goals will come, too. Everything’s gonna be the same.”