We’ve already talked about a plethora of the individual performances that helped propel New York City FC in their 3-1 win against Toronto FC in the MLS is Back Round of 16 this past weekend. But one we haven’t delved into is that of James Sands, who played perhaps the most important in stifling TFC’s attack.
Starting my #NYCFC vs TFC game rewatch and couldn't make it 3 minutes without pausing to grab a clip and gush about James Sands and highlight his on-ball defending as well as his off-ball defending and game smarts within one 15 second clip. A thread. pic.twitter.com/x9GBIAIjyc— Chris Campbell (@SoupInNYC27) July 28, 2020
Against the Reds, the 20-year-old Sands recorded a staggering 5 tackles and 3 interceptions, including 2 blocked shots. According to WhoScored, Sands had the highest player rating of any defensive player with an impressive 7.64.
Numbers like these are confirmation of everything NYCFC fans already know about the talented youngster. And finally, it seems other people are starting to notice.
Yesterday, Tifo Football — a YouTube channel dedicated to football scouting and tactical analysis — released a video talking about who they consider to be the four best young players in MLS. Among them are LAFC’s Diego Rossi, Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco, Cole Bassett from the Colorado Rapids, and of course Sands. City’s star defensive midfielder is even in the video’s thumbnail!
In their opening statement regarding Sands, TF describes the Rye, New York native as a player who is always cool and collected on the ball even under pressure. Furthermore, TF identifies Sands as a player who will mostly take the easy pass but won’t hesitate to distribute the ball long to the flanks.
Being capable of playing both in the defensive midfield and as a center back, TF opines that in order to truly excel, Sands would be best sticking to one of the two in order to truly achieve his massive potential — they think he’s best utilized as the former of the two options due to him being undersized in comparison to the world’s more elite CB options.
The video identifies Sands best qualities as his ability to read the game, his proactive defending, and his versatility.
It’s no secret that Sands is becoming a star that is perhaps too bright for a fledgling league such as MLS. And when asked a few weeks ago about a future European transfer, Sands expressed optimism that NYCFC “would not stand in [his] way” should he be given an opportunity to play abroad.
But for now, NYCFC supporters such as myself can revel in the fact that for now, one of the league’s best young players calls City his home. And for the hopes of our future championship chances, we hope to be able to hold him for just a bit longer.