MAKING HIS CASE: James Sands Taking His Chance with the USMNT During Gold Cup
To a lot of observers, James Sands has been the mammoth nonplus for the U.S. Mens National Team at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
"I guess its been a dismay to a mountain of people, but its not a dumbfound to me that Im playing this way," he said. "Ive done it for a duo years with New York, and Ive been pretty consistent at it."
For the ended three Major League Soccer seasons with New York City FC, the 21-year-old Sands usually has played the middle of a three-man backline while being able to take into the role of a defensive midfielder.
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So, he has splice in well to the three-man center back organisation that USMNT skipper coach Gregg Berhalter deployed in his top two international starts. His calmness, fellow figure and passing talent has been impressive.
"The things Ive been doing in these ended two games are things Ive all done before," Sands said. "Im teaching pretty optimistic going forward."
Before the Gold Cup, Sands goals were pretty a lot of down to earth.
"The group stage has been a really upright learning experience for me," he said. "This is my peak circumstance with the senior team. So, I really didnt recognize what to await going into these games."
Sands secret? Just being himself, not trying to do anything outside his capabilities.
"Its about doing the corresponding things, not trying to modify my game," he said. "Theres certain things that Im righteous at; spruce passes, immaculate touches, being defensively good. Itll be important, especially in the knockout rounds, valid hold doing those things, not trying to be anything that Im not. I suppose good things bequeath prolong to happen."
As NYCFCs blessing Homegrown signing, the 6-1, 185-lb. defenders consistent cudgel performances attracted Berhalters attention, but some things out of Sands operate kept him from probation camp and games. A broken arm and collarbone imperfect his playing circumstance in 2019 and the COVID-19 global in 2020 high everyones life upside.
"It was definitely tough," Sands said. "I had a heap of vile injuries that I had to covenant with. It was frustrating, but it never really rattled me too much. I always abstraction Im on a ethical path. Ive got upstanding kin around me, honest coaches. My connections is always supportive. I always felt if I stayed the alley my befall would come eventually.
"When that transpire came, I would hold to bear it. I project thats what Ive done at this tournament. You obviously touch down in the moment when those injuries happen, but its all about lasting to do what you do, putting in the work. Everyone will know commit achieve what they enthusiasm in the final if they recognized set about those things."
Sands earned his best trilby in the USAs 1-0 win over Haiti at Childrens Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. on July 11.When he stood on the sidelines ready to replace Nicholas Gioacchini in the 76th minute, Sands preceived he was “pretty nervous.”
“I don’t often achieve nervous, but when I stepped on the yard the nerves amiable of go away,” he added. “Once I got a few touches on the orb and felt like normal like I was back playing an MLS diversion in New York.”
Since then, he has played like a 10-year international veteran as one of the steadier players on the pitch, helping the Americans finish as the lone coalition upholder with a 3-0-0 mark. Looking ahead, the USMNT consign meet Jamaica in the quarterfinals in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, July 25 (10 p.m. ET; FS1, Univision, TUDN).
Sands might look like a choir boy, but he plays a heady, physical game. He hasnt been afraid of going in for a strenuous system or tussle with an clashing forward. He plays with a still confidence.
He was one of the stalwarts of the Americans 1-0 victory over Canada on July 18 that lifted the USMNT to the elite spot in Group B. For most of the match, Sands transitioned betwixt center back and defensive midfielder when the case called for it.
"One of the things I found challenging about the sport was proper trying to oversee how many Im running Im doing acceptance amongst each position," Sand said. "I started to attain a little fatigued in the closing half. Thats body Ill hold to learn for the future and the games coming up but I had a lot of fun doing it. Playing in both spots really showcases the peak of my abilities."
With Berhalter rendering that he consign need extra players when the USMNT plays three games within a seven-day brace during World Cup qualifying this fall, Sands versatility cede come in handy. Of course, he has to be selected first.
Sands, however, refused to presume anything, noting there were several center backs ahead of him, including John Brooks, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream, Mark McKenzie and the injured Aaron Long, among others.
"I envisage am indeed pushing my style up the depth chart," he said, adding that he entered camp "just want to achieve the experience with the National Team, put everything out there and accomplish my best. In the latter thats the coachs decision, whos the finest center back whos the top six, whos the second center back.
"But I visualize if I hold putting in strong performances, I can absolutely set about a ethical plight for myself. So in the games going unblushing Im absolutely going to try and make that and try and do a offer for myself."