In a year where several newcomers took Major League Soccer by storm, few were more effective than Sporting Kansas City's own Ilie.
The Spanish veteran started all but one of Sporting KC’s 40 games across all competitions, playing the full match in all 39 appearances. Ilie finished second in MLS in total passes and third in passes completed, also ranking third among midfielders with 64 interceptions.
With a restful offseason under his belt, Ilie is raising the bar even higher ahead of the 2018 campaign. After all, he has a theory that the sophomore season often yields the greatest results.
“I think the second season is always the best for every player,” Ilie said. “I’m excited to see what I am able to do in the new season, and I am excited to keep training and playing with my teammates.”
Admittedly, this offseason was longer than Ilie would have liked. Sporting KC’s run in the MLS Cup Playoffs ended in late October, prompting him to spend November and December in his native Barcelona.
“It’s always tough to train individually when you are playing a team sport, but you have to do it because it helps you know when you are coming back to training,” Ilie said. “This leads you to be ready for what the coach wants — to be fit from the first moment.”
Indeed, Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes will have high expectations for a player who was so consistently solid last year. Ilie’s role is all the more important considering his status as the deep-lying defensive midfielder in Sporting KC’s 4-3-3 setup.
Ilie holds himself to lofty standards as well, and as much as he would like for Sporting KC to add to its trophy case in 2018, the 27-year-old is mature enough to know that the chase for championships comes day by day.
“I’m not promising anything (other) than work,” Ilie said, “and that we are going to try to do our best in every game.”