SKC’s Daniel Salloi: ‘I’ve Always Loved the Cup’

A teenage Daniel Salloi scored the winning goal in the 2017 Open Cup Final – the last time Sporting Kansas City won a trophy – and the club’s all-time top scorer in the competition is back at again.
By: Jonah Fontela

Daniel Salloi doesn’t just like the Open Cup. He loves it.

“I’ve always loved this competition,” insisted the Hungary-born striker, who became Sporting Kansas City’s all-time top scorer in U.S. Open Cup history with a pair of goals in last year’s Quarterfinal.

The four-time Open Cup champions from Kansas are through to Round of 32 of this year’s tournament after avoiding a Cupset at home against amateurs Tulsa Athletic in the Third Round. But these are trying times for the MLS side. They finished six places out of playoff contention last year and are off to a similar start in the current campaign – winless from their first ten league games.


Even at this early stage, the Open Cup represents a glimmer of potential salvation for Sporting. It was the same deal last year until they lost to second-tier underdogs Sacramento Republic in a dramatic Semifinal. The win against the Tulsans on April 25th – in which Salloi scored again to increase his tally in the Open Cup – is the club’s only taste of victory since kicking off the 2023 MLS campaign in February.

Another Open Cup – however unlikely and still a long way off – would make SKC the first team from the MLS era to win it five times. They’d join giants of yesteryear Bethlehem Steel and Maccabee AC of Los Angeles.

Salloi’s Special Cup

To watch Salloi’s involvement in the Open Cup over the years is to see his condensed progress from talented teenager to top pro. His love affair with the competition began back in 2017 with an auspicious introduction.

“Whenever anyone asks I always say that it’s the top soccer moment for me,” the 26-year-old Salloi told usopencup.com thinking back on his winning goal in the 2017 Open Cup Final against the New York Red Bulls. “It’s the top memory. Scoring a winning goal in a Cup final at home, you can’t match that.”

But Salloi, previously of Budapest side Újpest, who signed with KC as a pro in 2016 after an impressive year in the club's academy, wants to do just that. His opening goal in the 3-0 win over Tulsa Athletic is his eighth in the tournament’s history. And the win set up a Round-of-32 meeting on the road against 2018 champions Houston Dynamo on May 10th.

Salloi against Union Omaha in last year’s Open Cup

Salloi, a hybrid striker-winger conspicuous for his elegance on the ball, has gone from gifted youngster to team leader. And he takes his contributions seriously.

While most players dismiss individual honors as unimportant in the grand scheme, Salloi is refreshingly honest. And he sees his Cup record, which dates back to Sporting KC’s first involvement in the Open Cup in their founding year of 1996 (then as the Kansas City Wizards), as part of a continuum of progress.

“I chase these records,” said the attacker, who followed in the footsteps of his father, István Sallói – once a teammate of current Kansas City coach Peter Vermes at Hungarian side Győri ETO FC – earning his first international caps for Hungary in 2021. “They’re small challenges you put in front of yourself and you see you’re making a mark and breaking club records.

“I hope I can set more records and score more goals,” added the 2021 MLS All-Star selection who has one of the club’s three league goals this term. “This way the next guy who beats it [the record] will have a bigger challenge.”

Steps Forward

“He’s [Salloi] taken a really big step forward,” said Vermes, now in his 14th season coaching at the club, back in 2022. “I think it has to do mostly with maturity.”

Hard times for SKC coach Peter Vermes

Salloi also wants desperately to keep the club’s reputation from transforming with the passing of trophyless years. “We don’t want to be talked about as a club that used to win; that used to have it,” he insisted. “We want to bring it back and say this is a club that has it. That has it now.”

That late September day in 2017, when a fresh-faced Salloi latched onto a searching ball from Benny Feilhaber and sent the home crowd into hysterics in a Cup Final, remains the last time KC painted the wall at Children’s Mercy Park – or hoisted a piece of silverware. That year, according to both Salloi and Vermes, is too deep in the inky past.

 

 

“It [2017] was the last time we won something and before that it was more frequent,” said the struggling club’s last Cup-winning goal hero. “We don’t want it to run away from us.”

Fontela is editor-in-chief of usopencup.com. Follow him at @jonahfontela on Twitter.