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Daniel Salloi: A Reminder of the Unifying Impact of Sports
How did a kid from Siofok, Hungary, come to become the first Home Grown player in Sporting Kansas City history to reach 90 games for the club?
Soccer truly is a global game. It stands as one of the few things in a divided world that can bring everyone together.
It's what brought a teenage Daniel Salloi from Hungary to Kansas City, Missouri, and the youth academy of Sporting Kansas City, one of the most storied clubs in the history of the MLS.
The Daniel Salloi we see today is a product of the love and guidance that he has seen every step of the way. It started with a father and family structure that provided support and opportunity while minimizing the pressure to follow in the footsteps of his father, Istvan Salloi, a man whose professional soccer career spanned 15 years and included several appearances for the Hungarian National Team.
That family structure provided the support and the push an 18-year-old Daniel needed to leave the comfortability of Hungary for a foreign exchange program in Kansas City, Missouri. Once in the United States, he would need new guidance and a support system to help ease the transition from Hungary to the United States.
To that transition, Salloi credits his host family and Istvan Urbanyi, a fellow Hungarian/family friend and Sporting Academy coach, for making it a successful transition.
"It was overwhelming but, I definitely got lucky with an amazing host family, the Parrys, and a great coach Istvan Urbanyi who was also Hungarian. They made my transition easier. I had a great year, and I wouldn't change it to anything."
The Parrys took Daniel in when they did not have to, and he sees them as a second family, vital to making his American Dream come true. Istvan Urbanyi, a former Hungarian International, was the head coach of his academy team, and having a fellow countryman at a foreign club can be a career-changing influence. That structure was the backbone to an academy season that saw him score 21 goals in 28 games for the Sporting KC U18 team.
That year served as a foundation for the years of success that would follow.
However, the path was not straight forward. It saw Salloi go back to the Hungarian first division before he was tabbed as a homegrown player then sent back on loan for another season. The breakthrough finally came in 2017 thanks to head coach Peter Vermes, three years after his move to the United States, and he has not looked back since.
Even though he is just 24, Daniel Salloi is already a memorable member of Sporting KC's history.
He scored the second goal in the 2017 Open Cup Final in a 2-1 victory that handed Sporting its 7th and most recent trophy. He led Sporting in goals in 2018 to help them finish first in the conference for the first time in six years. Two accomplishments he lists amongst the proudest in his career.
Then there's the unique recognition as Sporting Kansas City's all-time appearance leader of any homegrown player.
A telling achievement that shows that despite his Hungarian roots, Daniel Salloi is as big of a part of Kansas City, Sporting, and the Academy as anyone who has ever played for the club.
When asked what the city of Kansas City means to him, Salloi responds, "It has become a second home over the years. I have many friends, and I can even call some of them my family."
Salloi still maintains his pride for Hungary and the Hungarian National Team as a vital part of everything he does. He has already made appearances and scored for the youth national teams, but has he says,
"At any age, it's a great recognition to get called in, but the big dream is to play and score for the First Team."
As far as where things stand now, Daniel Salloi remains an integral part of the Sporting Kansas City team, and as the oldest homegrown player at the club, he serves as a role model to all players in the Sporting Academy of what can happen with hard work and perseverance. And as evidence of a club committed to providing a pathway to the first team for its best youth players.
Some of his closest friends at the club are fellow Home Grown players, Gianluca Busio and Jalyin Lindsey, along with Scottish International Johnny Russell, another man who has carved his name in Sporting KC history. They are all a part of the great team chemistry Salloi describes that helped get the squad through the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, and the MLS is back tourney that kept the team isolated from friends and family for months.
The aspect that remains challenging for Salloi is playing at Children's Mercy Park at less than full capacity. The club stands as a backbone to the Kansas City community, and Children's Mercy Park is one of the most feared stadiums in the MLS. But safety protocols mean it'll be a while before full capacity is allowed once again.
Salloi credits the MLS for the work they did in the MLS is back Tourney, as well as the empowerment it gave players and clubs in partaking in the BLM protest movements.
"I'm in full support, and I hope it can see changes. It's terrible that this is still an issue to this day. I hope, over the years, racism can disappear or at least fade away. I believe the fight we are doing as a league as well helps to open up some eyes."
Away from the field, Salloi spends his free time with friends or his puppy. Asked if he could go back and tell a young him anything, he responds by saying he would advise himself to practice more as a kid. The kind of thinking that has propelled Salloi to levels he didn't think he could reach. A constant dedication to analyzing and improving with a positive mentality.
There are, of course, challenges associated with been a professional athlete that can come with a slump in performance or lack of playing time, but Salloi has grown from it with a positive mindset.
"I've always found positive mentality in American people the key difference from the European way. Positive reinforcement has taken me to levels I didn't know I had in me."
As Daniel Salloi continues to reach new levels, his story serves as a reminder that soccer is truly a global sport that can bring people of all backgrounds together under one cause.
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