Alan Pulido's two long years come full circle with Mexico recall

Alan Pulido has gone from an irrelevant to call-up. As Cesar Hernandez notes, Pulido will have a big chance to earn a key role with El Tri.

A little less than three years ago, many Liga MX and Mexico supporters started paying attention to a rising domestic league star: 22-year-old Alan Pulido. With nine goals in the 2013 Apertura, the Tigres attacker won recognition for his noteworthy and effective finishing, particularly from close range.

That tournament was easily the best in his short career with Tigres, so it was no surprise when Pulido was called-up to Mexico’s senior team in January 2014. Though many expected him to immediately earn minutes, nobody anticipated a man of the match performance that would follow.

On January 29, in his first-ever start for El Tri in a friendly against South Korea, the striker put on a show, registering a hat trick in front of 50,000-plus at San Antonio’s Alamodome. With millions more watching from home, Pulido made it clear he had the potential to be one of Mexico’s most exciting players.

Unfortunately for the 22-year-old, that’s when things started to get complicated.

Contract disputes, move to Greece

After sneaking a spot in Mexico’s 2014 World Cup roster, Pulido returned to Mexico under the assumption that his contract with Tigres had already ended. However, according to Tigres, the forward had signed an extension that tied him to the club. Pulido later filed a complaint with the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) in hopes of leaving Tigres and moving abroad.

The FMF, however, sided with Tigres in December 2014. Pulido appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but his appeals were rejected, twice. During the process, however, the striker signed with Greece’s Levadiakos in January 2015 and gained a provisional transfer from FIFA. Pulido debuted for Levadiakos in March 2015 and signed with Olympiacos in the summer.

Due to the lengthy legal battle, Pulido was only able to earn sporadic playing time with the Greek clubs, who were doing their best to not step on CAS’ or FIFA’s toes. It was a confusing situation that became even more bewildering one when MLS attempted to woo the player earlier this year.

Even when the forward found some unexpected minutes at the end of last season, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio admitted  the contract dispute with Tigres influenced the decision to leave Pulido out of the preliminary Copa America Centenario roster.

If all that sounds bizarre, it was put in perspective earlier this year, when news emerged in late May that Pulido had been kidnapped during a trip back to his hometown in Mexico. According to reports, Pulido eventually wrestled away a captor’s pistol and cellphone and was able to notify the police of his location. The Mexican star was later seen safe outside of a hospital without any serious physical harm.

It was the culmination to two difficult years, a time that finally showed signs of turning around when Chivas announced the August signing of the struggling Olympiacos player.

An important role with El Tri

Since his return, Pulido has done an excellent job, quickly transitioning into Chivas’ starting XI. The 25-year-old has two goals and one assist in his last four league games and is gaining more confidence with each passing match.

That form helped bring Pulido’s story full circle when it was announced the striker was named to Osorio’s recent call-up list for the national team, his first chance for minutes with El Tri since the summer of 2014. With upcoming friendlies against New Zealand (Oct. 8) and Panama (Oct. 11), Pulido has an opportunity to fight for a spot in Mexico’s November World Cup qualifying rosters.

Skeptics question the player’s immediate return to the national side after rejoining Liga MX, but the forward undoubtedly has the talent to be a key player for El Tri. If Osorio utilizes a 4-3-3 formation, with options like Giovani dos Santos and Hirving Lozano running down the wings, Pulido could easily knock in at least a goal or two against the coming week’s opponents.

It’s difficult to imagine him above Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez or Raul Jimenez on Mexico’s depth chart, but the Chivas player will be happy to once again be in the conversation. Who knows? A good season with Chivas and a few decent national team performances could even forge a spot behind Hernandez among Osorio’s regular callups.

Highlights from week 12

- Tijuana essentially has a spot in the playoff spot guaranteed after defeating Atlas 1-0 at home on Friday. Thanks to the game-winning goal from Milton Caraglio, the club will stay in first place for at least another week. American defender Michael Orozco played the full 90 minutes for Xolos while Chula Vista’s Paul Arriola remained on the bench.

- With a total of eight goals and three red cards, Cruz Azul’s 5-3 win over Veracruz was the most entertaining clash of the Liga MX weekend. Los Cementeros’ Joao Rojas emerged as the man of the match with his two goals and assist. Mexican-American Marco Vidal remained on the bench for Veracruz.

- Leon striker Mauro Boselli was on fire against Tigres on Saturday night. The Argentine provided a goal and assist in the first half that helped carry Los Panzas Verdes to an unexpected 3-2 win against Los Auriazules. While USMNT goalkeeper William Yarbrough helped preserve the victory for Leon, Texas’ Jose Torres struggled in the midfield for Tigres.

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