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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For Sporting Kansas City forward Alan Pulido, the 2022 season was one of reflection and recovery as he watched from the sideline after undergoing season-ending surgery to his knee before the start of the campaign.

Pulido is the most expensive transfer in Kansas City history, but has missed time due to a lingering knee injury, culminating in his surgery that left SKC without their star striker.

“It’s been a tough year. It’s my first severe injury and surgery. It’s been hard, but I’ve taken this year to recover in the best way possible,” Pulido said. “I know the incoming season is going to be an important one, because we have to be better, because we have a lot to prove. But I’m happy with my recovery.”

Sporting got off to a slow start in MLS, failing to get wins and remaining toward the bottom of the table for a majority of the season.

It wasn’t until the arrival of German midfielder Erik Thommy and Nigerian forward Willy Agada in the summer that Sporting began to turn things around.

“After the arrival of Agada and Thommy, we were able to get back on track and win some important games, but we were left with the bad feeling of not making the playoffs,” Pulido said. “Personally, I’m excited with their arrival because they are important players that can add in the upcoming season to help us reach the top of the table.”

Recently, rumors of Pulido returning to his former Liga MX club Chivas began to surface, but the Mexican International said he is focused on Sporting Kansas City.

“I have a contract and I am very happy here in this club. I am focused only on Sporting for the next year and I want to score a lot of goals, so the team can stay in first place,” Pulido said.

Pulido added he’d never close the door an a return to Chivas, the club that he says gave him everything and made him feel comfortable, but for the time being, he is focused on returning to play for SKC.

After a year of recovery, however, Pulido’s return to the pitch with a Sporting jersey will not be without adversity. Agada’s arrival and immediate impact on the scoring front means that the club now has two players vying for the striker role.

“I’m excited that Willy is here and has been able to score lots of goals. I’m not worried about competing for the spot and I know the characteristics of a No. 9 spot are different. It’s not impossible to play with two 9’s or if I have to fight for a spot, I’ve always done that,” Pulido said. “This wouldn’t be an exception. I’m excited for it. It helps put sporting in the best position possible.”

Manager Peter Vermes has famously played with a 4-3-3 formation and has hardly ever wavered to another formation that would allow two striker positions, but for the meantime, Pulido is focused on not rushing his recovery so he can be at 100%.

Pulido’s goal is to play in every match possible in 2023 to make up for lost time.

“All I want to do is play and to be able to get back on the field and feel alive with that energy and those emotions. That is going to be very important and I cant wait for that day,” Pulido said. “I know, and we know, Sporting can’t repeat what we did this season. We need to make the playoffs.”