Sporting Kansas City drew from a familiar international location to address the center of its formation for the first time this offseason.
The club on Friday signed Spanish defensive midfielder Ilie Sanchez to a two-year contract with an option for the 2019 season. He will fill an international spot on the Sporting KC roster, pending receipt of his international transfer certificate and P1 visa.
Sanchez, 26, has played eight years professionally in Spain and Germany. He spent his youth days in FC Barcelona’s LA Masia academy in his hometown before moving on to Barcelona B, where he appeared in 114 games. He most recently was on loan to Spanish club Elche CF, which plays in the country’s second division.
That’s a similar track record to former Sporting KC defensive midfielder Uri Rosell, whom the club acquired from Barcelona B in August 2012.
“He comes from a place that we’ve had a good relationship with, and (we’ve) been successful with players from there,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He understands (his) position really well.”
Sanchez will be expected to compete for a starting role in the defensive midfield, a position occupied mostly by Soni Mustivar over the past two seasons. Mustivar has started 44 games in that time frame.
After Sporting KC allocated the majority of its offseason resources toward improving the offense, Sanchez is the first midfield addition to the roster. Vermes said he previously tried to acquire him a few years ago but “financially, we couldn’t do it.”
“They all have an adaptation period. Just because they’re coming in doesn’t mean they’re going to be the guy,” Vermes said. “But I’m very confident he’s a professional person with character. I think we’re adding a really good player to our team and a good person. It always makes that adaptation period a lot easier.”