Barcelona to US citizen: LAFC's Ilie Sánchez celebrates "amazing" journey
Ilie Sánchez has experienced plenty of reasons to celebrate since arriving in Major League Soccer a half-dozen years ago.
Sanchez, a product of FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy, has eight years of professional experience in Spain and Germany. The defensive midfielder featured extensively for FC Barcelona B from 2009-2014 and most recently played for Spanish side Elche CF during the 2015-16 season. Ilie, who earned 2018 MLS All-Star accolades in his second season with Sporting, has started 131 of 138 appearances in all competitions since joining the club at the start of 2017.
2020: MLS regular season: Started 13 of 15 appearances and contributed to six clean sheets (1,259 minutes played). Assisted Gadi Kinda's goal in a 2-2 draw at Chicago Fire FC on Oct. 17. MLS is Back Tournament: Started five matches and contributed to two clean sheets (423 minutes played). Converted his penalty kick in a 3-1 shootout win over Vancouver following a scoreless draw in the Round of 16 on July 26. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started two matches and scored one goal (210 minutes played). Played 120 minutes in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Nov. 22, scoring a second-half goal and converting his penalty kick in the shootout as Sporting defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 in a penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw. Played 90 minutes in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota United in the Western Conference Semifinals on Dec. 3.
2019: Was named the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year alongside Ilie Sanchez for his philanthropic impact on the Kansas City community. MLS regular season: Started 27 of 32 appearances, scored two goals, recorded five assists and contributed to six clean sheets (2,510 minutes played). Scored the game-winning penalty kick in a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on March 10. Assisted Krisztian Nemeth's third goal in a record-breaking 7-1 win over the Montreal Impact on March 30. Came off the bench for the first time in his MLS career to help Sporting battle from two goals back in a 4-4 draw against the New England Revolution on April 27. Assisted Johnny Russell's sensational second goal in a 3-2 victory over Seattle Sounders FC on May 26. Assisted Yohan Croizet's goal in a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo on June 1. Assisted Yohan Croizet's goal in a 5-1 loss to LAFC on July 3. Scored a goal in a 3-1 loss at New York City FC on July 26. Came off the bench to assist Erik Hurtado's late goal in a 1-0 win over Minnesota United FC on Aug. 22. Concacaf Champions League: Started six matches, scored two goals and contributed to three shutouts (540 minutes played). Played the entirety of both shutout wins over Deportivo Toluca FC in the Round of 16, scoring a brilliant volley in a 3-0 first-leg victory at Children's Mercy Park on Feb. 21. Scored Sporting's lone goal from the penalty spot in a 2-1 quarterfinal first-leg defeat at Independiente on March 6 before going the full 90 minutes in a 3-0 second-leg win over the Panamanian side on March 14. Open Cup: Started and played 90 minutes in a Fourth Round loss to Minnesota.
2018: Was named an MLS All-Star for the first time in his career and earned Sporting KC team MVP honors. MLS regular season: Started 34 matches while playing every minute of the regular season, scored four goals, recorded four assists and contributed to 13 shutouts (3,060 minutes played). Scored his first career MLS goal from the penalty spot in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on March 17. Scored a penalty kick in a 2-2 draw against Seattle Sounders FC on April 15. Assisted Yohan Croizet's first MLS goal in a historic 6-0 hammering of Vancouver Whitecaps FC on April 20. Assisted both goals in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United FC on May 9, setting up Daniel Salloi's game-winner and Gerso Fernandes' late strike. Scored a penalty kick in a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on July 7. Converted a penalty kick in a 2-0 win at LAFC on Aug. 11. Assisted Daniel Salloi's 97th-minute goal in a 4-1 victory at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Oct. 17.Open Cup: Started and played 90 minutes in a 2-0 fourth-round win over Real Salt Lake on June 6. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas in the Round of 16 on June 16. Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-2 quarterfinal loss at the Houston Dynamo on July 18. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started four matches and scored one goal (360 minutes played). Started and played 90 minutes in a 1-1 conference semifinal first leg draw at Real Salt Lake on Nov. 4. Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-2 conference semifinal second-leg win over Real Salt Lake on Nov. 11, converting a second-half penalty kick. Started and played 90 minutes in a 0-0 conference championship first-leg draw at Portland on Nov. 25. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-2 conference championship second-leg loss to Portland on Nov. 29.
2017: Was named the club's Newcomer of the Year. MLS regular season: Started 33 matches, contributed to 11 shutouts and recorded two assists (2970 minutes played). Made his MLS debut in a 0-0 draw at D.C. United on March 4. Recorded his first career MLS assist with a gorgeous long ball to set up Gerso against the Montreal Impact on June 10. Assisted Diego Rubio's game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on Sept. 24. Open Cup: Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-0 fourth-round win over Minnesota United FC on June 14. Started and played 90 minutes in a 2-0 round of 16 victory over Houston Dynamo on June 28, assisting Ike Opara's game-winning goal. Started and played 120 minutes in a 3-0 quarterfinal win against FC Dallas on July 11. Started and played 120 minutes in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over the San Jose Earthquakes following a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time on Aug. 9, converting his penalty in the shootout. Started and played 90 minutes in a 2-1 Open Cup Final victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 20.MLS Cup Playoffs: Started and played 120 minutes in a 1-0 extra-time loss at the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Knockout Round on Oct. 26.
Before Sporting KC
Born and raised in Barcelona, Sánchez jumped from La Masia to FC Barcelona B ahead of the 2009-10 campaign. He helped the club earn promotion to the Spanish Segunda Division with 22 appearances in his first professional season, including his maiden Barcelona goal against cross-city rival Espanyol B. He played 24 more matches the following year, scoring in an April 2011 victory over Villarreal II, as Barcelona B finished third in Spain’s second tier.
After missing most of 2011-12 through injury, Sánchez claimed a regular spot in Barcelona B’s midfield over the next two seasons. He played 29 league matches in 2012-13 and started 36 of 38 appearances in 2013-14, guiding Barcelona B to another third-place finish in the Segunda Division.
Sánchez appeared in 114 league games during his five-year spell at FC Barcelona B. He notably played alongside former Sporting KC midfielders Oriol Rosell (2011-12) and Jordi Quintilla (periodically from 2012-14), both of whom also progressed through La Masia.
Sánchez moved to Germany’s second division in 2014, making 26 appearances in all competitions for 1860 Munich of the 2. Bundesliga. He was then loaned back to his native Spain for the 2015-16 campaign, where he played 28 games for CF Elche in the Segunda Division. Sánchez recorded one goal in Elche colors, netting the game-winner in a 2-1 triumph versus Osasuna in November 2015.