BREMERTON, Wash. — The Kitsap Pumas have announced the re-signing of former attacking midfielder Jesús “Chuy” Sánchez. Sánchez, who played a pivotal role in the Pumas’ reaching the 2014 PDL national championship game, rejoins the club after one season in the USL with the Oklahoma City Energy.
“We’re excited to bring Chuy back to our club,” MacDonald said. “He’s a fan favorite, coaching youth teams in the area, and he’s a great asset to the Pumas.”
Growing up in Chula Vista, California, Sánchez was exposed to an elite caliber of play from a very young age with Nomads Soccer Club, who consistently produce players that go on to compete at the professional level.
“Growing up playing for the Nomads was a great experience,” Sánchez said. “Nomads provided me with great coaches who cared about developing their players. Most importantly, the club and the coaches fostered my love for the sport, and this has allowed me to always work hard and make so many sacrifices along the way.”
Sánchez, who attended Cal State Bakersfield, made an instant impact at the collegiate level as he became a four-year starter for the Roadrunners. He scored 12 goals and had 27 assists throughout his career and received individual recognition in the form of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year as a sophomore and First Team All-Conference as a junior.
“I could not have asked for more at CSUB,” Sánchez said. “I had great coaching with an enjoyable playing style. When I was there, the coaches pushed me to be better, and the teammates I had to this day are some of my closest friends. Those were four of my most enjoyable years on and off the field.”
His exceptional play throughout his career at Bakersfield earned him national recognition as a top-10 attacking midfielder. He was projected to be an MLS draft pick after his senior season.
However, after Sánchez went undrafted, largely for his lack of size and strength, Kitsap quickly jumped at the opportunity to sign such an intelligent and skillful midfielder. Unfortunately, the frustration for Sánchez only continued, as he was forced to sit out the 2013 PDL season as a result of work permit issues.
“The hardest part about going undrafted for a guy like me was not knowing when the next game would be,” Sánchez said. “I have played this sport since I was a little kid, and since then, my competitive nature has always pushed me to compete at the highest level possible. So the worst year of my life definitely had to be when I had to sit out. Even though I had my partner, friends and family supporting me, I was missing a big part of my life. It was a rough year, but coaching for the Pumas youth side helped me keep a smile on my face.”
As the 2014 season began, Sánchez was finally able to retake the field after an extended stint away from the game. After a slow start to the season as he played his way back into form, Sánchez’s brace in a 2-1 comeback win at Lane United seemed to be the turning point in his and the club’s season. His performance that game earned him PDL Player of the Week honors.
Sánchez’s late heroics continued deep into the season, as his goals in the Western Conference semifinal against the Ventura County Fusion and in the national semifinal against Ocala Stampede led Kitsap to the final. In total, Sánchez made 15 appearances for the club, netting five goals.
“Going from not playing at all to playing in a talented team that made it to the final was what I needed at the time,” Sánchez said. “The run to the final itself was great because the guys were all having fun. It was a great group of guys who all had the same goal and that put in the work to make things happen.”
After his stellar performance down the stretch for the Pumas, Sánchez was signed by Oklahoma City. Sánchez helped lead the expansion club to a second-place finish in the Western Conference regular season and the Western Conference final in the playoffs. Sánchez made 26 appearances, including 21 starts, for OKC, scoring three goals and adding four assists.
After contract negotiations with OKC broke down this winter, Kitsap wasted no time in re-signing Sánchez.
“I am happy to be able to sign with Kitsap again,” Sánchez said. “The club and the community have given me so much, and I’m always grateful to be able to repay them. Last time I played here, we were one win away, so my goal this year is to improve on that.”
Transaction: Kitsap Pumas sign midfielder Jesús Sánchez on April 18, 2016
Born: Dec. 25, 1990
Hometown: Chula Vista, Calif.
Acquired: Signed on April 18, 2016