James Sands: What to Expect
James Sands has become Rangers’ first signing of the January transfer window. Taylor Murray examines what the versatile American can bring to Ibrox, and chats to Tom Sweezy of the MLS Ace Podcast to get the lowdown on the new acquisition.
As Rangers look to strengthen their team after the departure of Nathan Patterson to Everton for a club record fee, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst will be aiming to ensure that his squad doesn’t emerge from the January transfer window any lighter than it was at the start of the month. The Dutch manger has had an excellent start to life in the Rangers hot seat, going unbeaten in his first nine games, winning eight and drawing one. With eyes on Van Bronckhorst to see who he brings in, James Sands from New York City FC is the first player in the door. But who is James Sands and what can he bring to Rangers? This is a quick rundown of what to expect from the American international.
Sands looks to be a valuable player to have in any team, as he is very versatile in and around the backline. For New York City Sands has played four positions: centre back, right back, defensive midfielder (6) and centre midfielder (8). This could be crucial under Van Bronckhorst as the easy adaption to these positions could help him change the dynamics of a game. Sands also played 34 and 37 games at centre back and defensive midfield respectively. By the looks of it, Sands’ natural instincts fits in with Van Bronckhorst’s saying “Keep the Zero.”
Stats & Trophies
Sands is still a young player, and at the age of 21, has managed to feature 79 times in first team action, with his first appearance coming in 2017 at the age of 17. In that time Sands has racked up 27 clean sheets across various positions, whilst also chipping in with two assists.
Although Sands is still in the early stages of his career, he knows what it takes to win. Over his spell with Louisville City FC and New York City FC, he has manged to collect three trophies: the USL Cup, MLS Cup and Gold Cup, with the latter two coming just last season. However, he did only play three games with Louisville as they went onto win the USL Cup.
As Sands makes the trip over the North Atlantic Ocean, I decided to talk to someone who has watched him extensively since his emergence in the New York City set-up. I spoke to the Tom Sweezy from the MLS Ace Podcast about Sands, getting good insight into the type of player Rangers have recruited.
Q – How Sands he on the ball? Not sure how much of Rangers you’ve seen, but they usually dominate the games they are in, so a good ball player is key.
A – Sands won’t do anything on the ball that will WOW you, but I think he is a very intelligent passer. Always will make the smart play and smart pass. NYCFC’s style is to play out of the back. Sands has a lot of opportunities to be patient, pass with defenders and midfielders to lead to that build-up of play. If you’re looking for a possession player, that’s Sands.
Q – What is his best position? I have seen that he has been playing centre back but can also play in midfield, as well as right back.
A – Again in my opinion, I think Sands is best as a 6. Versatile enough to play CB in a back three but way better as a defensive midfielder. When injuries popped up for both NYCFC & the US Men’s National Team, he filled in at CB, but I think is way more natural as a 6. He was the best defensive midfielder on the NYCFC roster in 2021 & I think he could develop into the backup 6 option for the USMNT behind Tyler Adams.
Q – What are the areas you would say are the weakest in his game?
A – I think Sands is a solid player all round. There’s nothing I would look at and say he is poor at. I’d like to see him get a bit more physical in his game, however. As a 6, I feel you need to know when to make that right tackle, the right moment to pick up a yellow card, or even that right moment to lay it all out for an interception. That is something I’ve seen grow in his game from 2020 to 2021, but still needs to improve more.
With an automatic Champions league place up for grabs at the end of the season for the league winner, Van Bronckhorst will be looking to keep his key players in this window, and fans will hoping that Sands can play a vital part in Rangers retaining their Premiership title.