The 2019 MLS season is one Sporting Kansas City fans will be looking to forget. But with a very long offseason ahead that may not have soccer until March (assuming no MLSPA strike), we feel compelled to look back at the good and the bad from 2019. For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.
The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2019 with perhaps the nicest player on the team — Ilie Sanchez.
Games Played (Started): 32 (27)
Minutes Played: 2,509
Games Suspended: 2 (one yellow card accumulation, one red card — his only two missed games all year)
xG (expected goals): 2.17
Positions Played: Defensive midfielder and some center back.
2019 Salary: $900,000.00
Contract Through (Option Years): 2021 (2022)
*All stats from 2019 MLS regular season unless otherwise noted.
Best Moment of 2019
There aren’t a lot of moments that you notice a teams defensive midfielder. In fact, it could be said the game is going better when you don’t notice them. They shield the back four defensively and are often the player making the first pass that sets up the team going forward. For that reason, I’ll do a cop out and say that Montreal Impact game. The team never again looked quite as good as they did that day. They bossed the midfield and Ilie was a huge part of that.
Worst Moment of 2019
Losing his starting job to Felipe Gutierrez on August 17th through August 31st. Those were three straight wins (San Jose Earthquakes, Minnesota United and Houston Dynamo). They were games in which the more athletic Guti playing deep shored up the defense. Ilie was a sub in all three-games and had a secondary assist in the Minnesota game that led to the game winner, but it exposed Ilie’s deficiencies in his primary position.
106. It was 106 days between Sporting KC shut outs from March 10th (against the Philadelphia Union — a game where Ilie converted a PK as well) and June 23rd (against the Columbus Crew). That’s far too long to go without shutting out another team. Ilie played in all those games (though two he was a sub as he dealt with a calf injury). It’s obviously not all on him, but there is blame to go around.
Fan Vote: Keep, Banish or Wait
The fans overwhelmingly want to keep Ilie around but it’s possible that Felipe Gutierrez played Ilie’s role better than Ilie did in 2019. Obviously the sample size is small for Guti in that spot, but he looked good and his pace really helped the back four (two of those wins were shutouts). Ilie has never been fast and his positioning has covered up for that. Ironically, he got his big raise since 2018 and really didn’t perform up to that previous standard (though mostly no one really did this year).
One thing to watch as Ilie ages is if he transitions to CB more in 2020. He really plays the position like Matt Besler and Andreu Fontas, so whoever is back there needs someone more athletic next to them. At least he’s good emergency depth there since he isn’t going anywhere with a contract that big.