After this season, Andrea Pirlo will be gone. Yangel Herrera may return, but it seems likely that the Venezuelan national will be gone as well. These two players represented about 25 percent of New York City FC’s midfield minutes this regular season. They were also two of the usual suspects to fill the no. 8 role in the 4-3-3, linking Maxi Moralez and Alexander Ring.
Enter James Sands. He is returning from the U-17 World Cup after the United States lost to a very strong England squad. He probably won’t start in the playoffs, but he may see some time off the bench. Depending on the matchup, adding Sands to the lineup could be very beneficial. He could help shut down the high-flying attacks of both Atlanta and Toronto.
Getting Sands some playoff minutes could also prove to be quite useful going forward to next year. He has the opportunity to establish himself as Herrera’s replacement in NYCFC’s best XI next season. NYCFC ranked 20th out of 21 teams in terms of academy minutes played this year. While NYCFC will need some more academy players to step up in order to catch the top teams on this list, Sands establishing himself as a starter will greatly improve their outlook.
What do you think? Will James Sands establish himself for next season? Will he start in the playoffs? Comment below.