NYCFC: James Sands plays well in start with the USMNT

James Sands of NYCFC and USMNT
James Sands of NYCFC and USMNT / Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, New York City FC player, James Sands, was given the start in the US Men’s National Team’s match against Mexico.  This friendly, the Continental Clásico, was played outside of the international window, so the majority of the USMNT roster were Major League Soccer based players.  So, based on Sands’ fantastic play so far this season, it was not shocking he received the start.

In addition, former NYCFC player and captain, Sean Johnson, also started between the sticks.  The two former teammates were the only former and current Pigeons on the roster. 

For Sands, this match was an opportunity to put himself back on the USMNT radar for future matches.  As of late, the squad is often filled with European based players, so it is difficult for MLS players to make the cut.  But he has been playing at another level with NYCFC in 2023, and deservedly deserved his shot.  

Game wise, the USMNT ended up drawing against Mexico, 1-1.  But how did the NYCFC fan favorite, Sands, do during his time on the pitch?

NYCFC star, James Sands, plays well in USMNT start

For starters, the 22-year-old New York City FC player played in his natural defensive midfield position for most of the game, so that helped tremendously.  But overall, he had a fantastic game, and likely put himself back into consideration for future call-ups.  He also showed his level-headedness during the match, which illuminates why he can be the captain for NYCFC. 

When the opportunity was near, Sands was able to intervene and break up Mexico’s play.  It did not matter whether he was stepping in front of passes or maneuvering around players to break their possession, or even regain the ball.  He found ways to make Mexico’s players think twice when he was nearby.  

Defensively, Sands had no issue with pressuring the opposition.  He was not afraid to go after the ball, even in situations where there were two or three players around the ball.  This aided the backline at times, for it allowed them to settle and prepare for any offensive effort that came their way.  Then, when the USMNT changed their formation, he moved into the backline. His biggest moment as a center-back was when he had a critical defensive moment in the final minutes to force the ball out of play. This stopped Mexico from sending the ball toward the goal, and led to a goal kick.   

His passes were on point as well during his time in the midfield.  He rarely missed a pass or gave up the ball while he was on the pitch, and in the first half he missed just one of his passes. In fact, there was even a moment when the NYCFC midfielder fell to ground and still passed the ball, and then got back up to make himself available again.  Oh, and in this case, he received the pass right back to him.  In addition, Sands revealed to USMNT fans that he is capable with accurately sending in the long ball too. 

It was clear the first half was the better half for the young American.  However, while he was a little quieter in the second half, he still gave his all and did his job, both in the midfield and backline.

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New York City FC knows how to bring the best out of Sands, and it seems the USMNT did the same in the game against Mexico.  His great performance, once again, should lead to more time with the national team in the future.