COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – He’s known as the wizard. And while he may be ancient in terms of soccer years, there’s no long, white beard or cane when it comes to Colorado Rapids midfielder Vicente Sanchez.
The 35-year-old continues to create magic as one of the Rapids’ most productive offensive pieces with four goals and five assists in 2015 despite holding the title as the team’s oldest player. The Uruguayan credits plenty of hard work and professionalism for keeping at the top of his game.
“Being a professional, you have to do everything the right way,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “You have to train hard, you have to eat properly, and you have to rest. At my age it’s important to rest and make sure your body feels right.”
Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni has praised that professionalism, but he’s also had to be realistic about his role, managing his minutes early in the season before featuring him more frequently as results became more critical later in the season. He’s made 29 appearances, 16 starts, with 12 of those starts coming in Colorado’s last 15 games.
“You have plans, and then you have real life,” Mastroeni said of Sanchez’s minutes. “The intent was to be stronger attacking-wise in the first part of the season. We wanted to put more goals in but that wasn’t the case. … In the second half of the season, he’s been a real catalyst in not only his individual performance, but the performance of the group moving forward. He’s done a really good job of galvanizing the guys and helping them make a run.”
Yet despite some standout performances by Sanchez down the stretch, including a two-goal performance in an eventual 3-2 loss Sept. 26 to the Houston Dynamo, the Rapids once again find themselves in familiar footing at the bottom of the Western Conference table.
“It’s been disappointing and tough,” he said of the Rapids season. “The team has been working extremely hard each week and the results make it even tougher. That’s the hard part of football.”
It hasn’t been solely been about results for the humble Sanchez. Along the way, he's also played the role of mentor, helping guide along young teammates such as Dillon Serna and Juan Ramirez, a pair who could take over as Rapids’ playmakers in the near future.
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“They’re young players, so they still have plenty of time to develop in their careers. But the main advice I give them that it’s a tough profession, and it doesn’t come easy,” Sanchez said of the duo. “They have great individual skills and are excellent players. As long as they come in every day and work hard, they can reach the levels they want to achieve.”
When that handing of the torch will happen remains up in the air, for now.
“We’ll have time to hash through that [at the end of the season],” Mastroeni said of Sanchez’s future in Colorado. “I don’t want to say anything before speaking to the player.”
But following a productive 2015, Sanchez appears poised to make another go of it next season.
“I feel fine, physically perfect. I’ve had no injuries this year, so there’s no issue playing next season,” he said. “At the end of the day I love playing football; it’s my No. 1 passion. It’s passion which draws you back to the game after tough results.”