James Sands

NYCFC rising star James Sands has a much-anticipated season ahead of him in which he expects to play more and it started extremely well.

“For me, I said last year ‘He’s our future’,”  New York City F.C. head coach Domenec Torrent said about the club’s first ever homegrown player James Sands in an interview with Pro Soccer USA reporter Glen Crooks via podcast On Frame.

The 18-year-old started the club’s season opener against Orlando City SC on Saturday, which they drew 2-2 away from home.

It was a bit surprising to see the New York native’s name in the starting lineup because he wasn’t a regular starter last season. Torrent explained that he started Sands because when he’s on the pitch the club holds on the ball longer.

“I decided to play with him. In my opinion, we have more control when he plays,” the 56-year-old coach said.

Sands got the chance to play against former European star Luis Nani on Saturday.

“I definitely watched him on TV when I was little, so it was kind of a surreal feeling actually being able to defend him,” the teenager said. “You get a sense how good he was when he did play for Man U. Obviously, he still has a lot of that quality left.”

NYCFC signed Sands on July 1, 2017, when he was just 16 years old. The young midfielder hasn’t seen much playing time, which is understandable due to his age, Saturday’s game was only his fifth MLS appearance.

Torrent expressed in his interview with Crooks that he plays a player based on their performances in practice. Therefore, Sands more than likely had a great offseason.

NYCFC has one of the best midfield in the league, hence it will be hard for the teenager to keep his name in the Starting XI, but there’s hope. The Boys in Blue’s club director Claudio Reyna expressed that the youngsters will see the pitch on a regular basis this season.

“They’re here to play,” Reyna told ESPN F.C. reporter Jeff Carslisle. “You can see it already. In particular, Sands and Torres are professional players; they fit in and are competing to play. I don’t think [Torrent] has any worry or issue to play those players.”

The Bronx based club’s next match is their home opener versus D.C. United on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium. It is not clear if Sands will get another start.

“Every single game is different,” Torrent said. “The next game we play at home against another team, D.C. Maybe I decide to play with other players. The most important thing is everybody has to be ready to play on our team.”

Sands hasn’t racked a goal nor an assist in the MLS yet. After a convincing start last week, Sunday could be the day the club’s future starts getting his name on the scoresheet—he just has to be ready.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.