When James Sands left New York City FC on loan before the 2022 season, many thought he would find success with Rangers F.C. He left after a fantastic year, and won the MLS Cup with the team. His versatility with where he could play in the defense and defensive midfield was a plus, but of course, his best work came in the defensive midfield.
Unfortunately, his adventure in Scotland has not gone according to plan, and he has struggled somewhat to get playing time, especially after the World Cup break. When he joined the Rangers after the 2021 Major League Soccer season, he was eased into the team, so his limited playing time made sense.
In 2023, he has made just four appearances with one start in all competitions for the Rangers. Now, he did score his first goal recently in the Scottish FA Cup, but the lack of starts and playing time is a concern for the talented player. It is not to say he has played poorly during his entire Scottish tenure; he has had some successful matches. But he has quickly slipped down the pecking order of the roster.
It does not help that he has mostly been used as a center-back too while out on loan. Undoubtedly, he can play in the positon, but he is at his strongest in the defensive midfield. With NYCFC, he was used as a center-back only when it was needed.
James Sands should come home to New York City FC
As a whole, it does not seem the move from New York City FC to Scotland was the right one. Sands, although barely given a chance, seems to have regressed slightly since he left for the Rangers, and Transfermarkt has even brought down his market value.
Based on his lack of playing time, the misuse of his abilities, and the fact he has not grown as expected, he should come home to NYCFC. He knows he has had success in the past with the Pigeons, and could use the time to redevelop himself into the fantastic player he can be.
Moreover, it might be difficult to find a new home in Europe after his unsuccessful time with the Rangers. In MLS, he will get starts and plenty of playing time, which would not only better his play and abilities, but boost his confidence. Returning home would not mean that he was a failure either. Rather, it would mean it did not work out in Scotland, and he is coming home to regroup, and try again later on.
Plus, NYCFC could use another midfielder. The club knows how good Sands is, and they would not have to search far and wide. The New York native can easily fit back in with the squad. Some might argue he would have to adjust to Nick Cushing’s style, which is true, but at least he has some familiarity based on the Englishman’s time as an assistant coach under Ronny Deila. Also, he still knows quite a bit of the team, despite the mass exodus this past offseason.
This is something both Sands and New York City FC should consider over the next few months. Perhaps, his loan can be terminated sooner, rather than later, as long as all parties agree to the action.