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Ilie Sanchez: I wanted to play in front of LAFC’s fans on a regular basis

Veteran previously admired black-and-gold from afar.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

An FC Barcelona product with plenty of MLS experience? No wonder LAFC were interested in signing Ilie Sanchez as a free agent ahead of the 2022 season.

The Spaniard moved from Western Conference rival Sporting Kansas City after a strong five-season stint there, and he said one factor that attracted him to LAFC was a desire to play for a team that wants to control games.

“So two main reasons [I came to LAFC]: One is because when I had to face LAFC for four years, I’ve always found the games very difficult to play. Not just to win, but also to be the main team on the field. And that’s something that I really appreciate from teams, when they want to play, when they want to be the main team on the field. They want to be around the ball all the time, steal the ball from you. So I thought that I could fit into their system and that my adaptation process would be smooth getting into LAFC,” Sanchez told reporters during media availability last week.

But the other reason he wanted to move to LA? The crowd that supports the black-and-gold.

“And then the second main reason is because of the fans. Coming into Banc of California [Stadium], playing in front of all the fans that push the team and cheer from the first minute to the 90th, no matter what is the result,” he said. “I remember coming with Sporting Kansas City, being up 3-0 in the first half and getting into the second half and fans keep cheering and pushing the team to do better. So that’s something that really sticks in [my mind] and that I really have value for me to be here today and to come to LAFC.”

Now 31, Sanchez says he wants to win, of course, but the veteran says the fun of working and playing with the ball keeps him coming back.

“When you come into practice, and you know that you are going to be always focusing on having the ball, trying to play around the ball and working with exercises that value having creating chances with a ball that gives you joy. I think that we are all here because at some point we started our childhood playing with with a ball and I think that Steve wants us to at least these first days and weeks to feel that the field that we’re here, of course to win games, but that the closest way to win it’s going to be if we enjoy what we do and if we are rewarded with the ball, not just in training sessions but in games,” Sanchez said.

With Sanchez part of a new era for LAFC, entering as Steve Cherundolo begins his tenure as LAFC’s head coach, Sanchez said their philosophies match up well and he’s happy to get ready for 2022.

“I’ve been very lucky with coaches throughout my career. I would say that many of them try to have the same ideas or similar ideas where they provided the players an environment and exercises and training session and game models for us to to enjoy our profession. And then to enjoy winning. But definitely I also felt this coming into LAFC and all the conversation I had previous to signing were also in that direction. And for me having conversations with Steve and realizing that he’s on the same page, it just gives me more motivation to keep working,” he said.

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