LAFC announced their latest move ahead of the 2022 season on Wednesday, adding midfielder Ilie Sanchez as a free agent on a two-year contract, with a club option for the 2024 season.
“Ilie is a player I have long admired not only for his ability on the field but also for his character and professionalism, which make him a great fit for us,” LAFC Co-President & General Manager John Thorrington said in a team statement. “We trust these qualities will help LAFC in our commitment to winning on and off the field for years to come.”
Sanchez, 31, joins after spending the last five seasons with Sporting Kansas City, where he was a key player throughout his tenure. All told, he made 144 league appearances with Sporting (134 starts), mainly playing as a defensive midfielder but also filling in at center back at times the past couple seasons. At times the club’s penalty taker and serving as captain as well, Sanchez was a vital player for Peter Vermes and helped them win the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, while he also was an MLS All-Star selection in 2018.
Prior to that, Sanchez began his career at hometown club FC Barcelona, playing over 100 times for Barcelona B. In 2014 he moved to German club 1860 Munich, which was then in the 2nd division. His two years there included a loan spell at Spanish club Elche in 2015-16, where he was a regular when they were in the 2nd division.
LAFC could use more MLS experience and a vocal leader, which Sanchez supplies in abundance. However, I’m concerned about how much they plan to play him. While he’s been a workhorse for SKC, he’s looked well off the pace the past couple seasons, and I fear his best days are well behind him. Ideally, he would be nice as a rotation or spot starter and more of a locker room guy, unless the offseason and a new system are going to completely rejuvenate him. I fear if LAFC are going to count on him to replace Eduard Atuesta and start 30 games, it may be a bumpy ride.
But that remains to be seen. For now, LAFC have added a veteran leader, which they need, and a defensive midfielder, which they need, and we’ll see how he slots into the team.
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