Age: 20 (July 6, 2000)
Club: New York City FC
Born: Rye, New York
US History: Been involved in a few USYNT camps; most notably left off 2019 U20 WC roster
James Sands came up through NYC’s academy, eventually becoming the club’s first homegrown signing in the summer of 2017 at 16. He was then loaned to Louisville City until the end of the season. In 2018 he made a few appearances after Domenec Torrent took over that summer. In 2019, Sands successfully locked down his starting spot. This season he is looking to build on what he did under Torrent. Current NYC manager Ronny Deila speaks very highly of him and has stated that European clubs are watching and interested.
Style of Play
Sands is a very intelligent player. He reads the game very well and his positioning is usually very good. He tries to shut down passes before they happen and block avenues to pin opposition teams back, thereby trying to avoid having to make tackles. That said, he is not opposed to getting stuck in. He can play as defensive midfielder or center-back with equal ease. He has also played as a box-to-box midfielder, though that is not his best position.
James Sands has not been capped (yet) for the senior USMNT. That day is quickly coming. Using the system Gregg Berhalter played in the 2020 January Camp, Sands would be a good depth player for the 6 role Jackson Yueill plays. His passing rage is not quite what Yueill’s is, but his ability to play as a center-back or 6 fits the idea of having the 6 drop back in position to prove extra defensive cover as the fullbacks push further forward. Sands could also supply center-back depth and is fairly comfortable in possession. After all his breakout season did occur under Pep Guardiola’s former assistant in Domenec Torrent.
Next Steps for James Sands
The next steps for James Sands are quite simple. He needs to keep having good performances in MLS and maintain his starting role for NYCFC. If he does that, he will have a strong case to be involved in the October domestic camp the USMNT is planning on having. He could also be included with the U23s as they look to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. That said, the big next step is obviously getting that European move. NYC has let players move before. Two notable players are Joe Scally (leaves for Gladbach in January) and Jack Harrison (just won promotion with Leeds on loan from Manchester City). Let’s hope James Sands is next on that list.