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Sporting KC 2020 Year in Review: Ilie Sanchez

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The nicest man in Kansas City get his 2020 reviewed.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during penalty kicks at Children’s Mercy Park.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 MLS season has come to an end and much like we did in 2019 for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to look back at how each player performed. Keep in mind the stats look diminished for many players, but just 21 regular season games were played in this COVID shortened season (instead of the typical 34). For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.

Week One

Week Two


The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2020 with one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet — Ilie Sanchez.

2020 Stats

Games Played (Started): 15 (13)

Minutes Played: 1,259

Goals: 0 (one in the playoffs — and he should have had that one against RSL that Khiry got credit for with an unknowing deflection)

Assists: 1

xG (expected goals): 0.71

Positions Played: Defensive midfielder (number 6)

2019 Salary: $900,000

2020 Salary: Unknown - But likely at or slightly above 2019.

Contract Through (Option Years): 2021 (2022)

Worst Moment of 2020

Ilie had to miss six straight games at the end of summer through the middle of September to be back home with his family. Our own Robert Rusert interviewed Ilie upon his return. Outside of the personal tragedy he was having to deal with, he borderline lost his job over the absence. Gianluca Busio proved he could start in that role and, while Ilie mentioned he learned a lot from watching Busio play his spot, it also showed where he was deficient in the role.

Best Moment of 2020

I reversed best and worst because I wanted to tie them together. Despite Ilie leaving and having his role filled by Busio, he came back and looked to be a new man. He was the best he’s been since 2018 and up until the playoffs, he was nearly perfect in his role. In the playoffs, the whole team fell apart, front to back, so I can’t fully fault him for that. It does sound like new signing Remi Walter was signed to play his role. It’ll be interesting to see how that battle plays out in preseason, if we have one.

Interesting Stat

14. Total fouls committed in 2020 (four yellow cards). It’s a weird stat, but I think he needs to foul more. Tactically at least. Ilie isn’t alone in this, but far too often in 2020 teams would come right up the middle of the field and Ilie is the last line of defense ahead of the backline. When the play comes in from out wide, that’s less on him, but as the last midfielder, sometimes you need to stick a foot in there and break up the play. Players like Diego Chara have been doing this for years and somehow getting away with it more often than not. Maybe Ilie is simply too nice.

Obviously things aren’t that simple, but it’ll be interesting to see how Walter plays the spot and if he brings a tenacity to the midfield as their position battle plays out.

Fan Vote Results

Keep: 88.1%

Release/Sell: 11.9%

Ilie is guaranteed for one more year, and it’s wild to think, but it may be his last with Sporting KC. He was a revelation in 2017 when he joined the team. He made most people forget the name Soni Mustivar and Peter Vermes was so high on his ability that he called him Uri 2.0. Uri Rosell had been the gold standard at that spot for SKC and Ilie was clearly better than that.

However, can he hold off the aforementioned Walter and keep his starting spot? If not, $900,000+ is too much for a backup. Especially a backup d-mid. Or maybe Ilie goes back to the center back experiment from the end of 2019. The team hasn’t signed any (and are down two) as of this writing.