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What the return of James Sands will mean to NYCFC

The versatile midfielder will allow head coach Nick Cushing change the shape of the team and anchor an ideal Starting XI.

The Sandsman was back in training yesterday |

As reported earlier, James Sands has indeed returned home to New York City FC and signed a long-term contract after his loan was cut short with Rangers FC. This brings mixed feelings: While it’s great that Sands is returning to an NYCFC that needs his services, the fact that a loan option with intent to buy was cut short is not what you want to see. You have to wonder what form Sands will bring with his return to the Bronx. 

On balance, I believe Sands will slot right back into being the player we saw during his entire tenure with NYCFC. But what does his return mean for head coach Nick Cushing’s side? Sands offers several positional options, which has always been one of his biggest values as a player. He can play in a single pivot as a defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3, allowing Justin Haak and Keaton Parks to move more freely as box-to-box midfielders. He can slot into the double pivot we saw on Saturday, at the expense of either Haak or Parks. Or he can play as part of a back-three in which he controls the center of the backline, allowing the wingbacks to push further into the attack. All of the managers Sands has played under at NYCFC to date – Patrick Vieira, Domé Torrent, and Ronny Deila – have utilized the Guy from Rye in all of these roles.

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