The USMNT’s triumphant 3-2 win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday was one for the ages. Drama, hard fouls, goals, extra time, tension, a penalty save from backup keeper Ethan Horvath — you name, that game had it. It was everything fans could’ve asked for in terms of entertainment value.
With that said, the United States’ cathartic win over their El Tri rivals might not have been as dramatic had it not been for some questionable defense from center backs Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream.
In just the 2nd minute of the match, McKenzie — formerly of the Philadelphia Union and now plying his trade in Belgium with Genk — committed a costly turnover at the back that allowed Mexico’s Jesus Corona to give El Tri an early 1-0 lead.
Even after the Yanks settled into the game, McKenzie remained shaky when on the ball. To make matters worse, Ream was getting burned on the opposite flank, especially once Diego Lainez came in late into the second half and shook off the longtime Fulham defender to score a brilliant off-the-bench goal.
While USMNT fans continued to watch with bated breath as their defense began to bend, New York City FC fans were advocating that the one and only James Sands become part of the United States’ international setup.
You know who has passed Reyna that ball before? James Sands. https://t.co/DUAZzLxgJO— NYCFC Tactics (@NYCFCTactics) June 4, 2021
It’s good to see some of the national commentators join the chorus singing hopeful hymns about James Sands and the National Team. I really hope he gets a look in the Gold Cup.— Gotham Gator (@GothamGator1) June 7, 2021
If Tyler Adams is so important to the squad because of the traits he brings to the field, wouldn't it make sense to have a similar style player as a backup? Who would that player be? Its James Sands isn't it?— Phil (@_HeyYoPhil) June 7, 2021
I can’t wait to watch the USMNT game later today and complain about James Sands not being on the team— Chris Campbell (@SoupInNYC27) June 6, 2021
Despite consistently being among the highest rated young prospects in American soccer, the 20-year-old Sands hasn’t featured at any international level since his last stint with the U-17 team in 2017. And that’s an absolute crime.
A player as composed and talented as Sands should not be watching international matches from home. He should be out there competing for a starting spot. What the hell does Tim Ream bring to the US team other than experience? The answer is nothing.
If US Soccer is serious about cultivating their young talent, then featuring said young talent is a must. And there’s nobody more deserving than Sands who has been exceptional in both NYCFC’s midfield and backline.