NYCFC to Sign Sands, First Homegrown Player

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

NYCFC logoJames Sands will become New York City FC’s first homegrown player effective July 1, the club announced Wednesday.

Sands, 16, will train with the first team for parts of the rest of the season but is expected to spend much of the next few months with the United States U-17 national team as its prepares for the World Cup in October. Sands will also spend the next month attending summer school. Sands said he is excited to have gone from playing in backyards in his hometown of Rye, N.Y., to becoming NYCFC’s first homegrown player.

“It’s a huge accomplishment but I think it’s also a credit to the players and coaches I’ve worked with, from NYCFC’s Academy to the youth national team,” Sands said. “Without them pushing me every day, I wouldn’t be in this position. I really thought about how much I would learn every day working with the players and the coaches at the club and that’s how I know this is the right thing to do for me at this time. Now I need to be like a sponge, to learn good habits from the people around me and to be confident – I’m really looking forward to coming in, to contributing and I really can’t wait to be out there playing in front of our fans.”

Sands became the first academy product to train with the first team during the preseason. He had an impressive performance at defensive midfield in the team’s friendly against Emelec in Guyaquil, Ecuador. He can play both defensive midfield and center back because of his defensive positioning, range of passing and composure. Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said it was an exciting moment for the club and the academy.

“James has worked so hard for this and he’s an inspiration for all of our academy players to realize that with the right habits and dedication they can follow James in signing a professional contract,” Reyna said. “I think the next thing that we’re all really looking forward to is when he steps onto the field for the first time and we have our first homegrown player making his debut. We’re confident, if James continues in the same way, that day will come soon.”

Sands played for New York Soccer Club, one of City’s youth affiliates, since he was 10 and joined the NYCFC Academy in July 2015. The two years within the academy allowed him to meet the league’s homegrown criteria. He made the Best XI at the CONCACAF Championships in May and is expected to be on the roster for the U-17 World Cup. Sands may not be on Coach Patrick Vieira‘s roster anytime soon but Vieira said he deserves this contract.

“He’s a young talent and now we have to help him to develop that talent,” Vieira said. “It’s really good for us as a football club because it shows how hard and how well the coaches in the Academy have been working for the past few years. They deserve a lot of credit because when you look at the talent we have, especially in such a short time period, it tells us a lot about how the system is working.”