We rarely get to be there at the beginning, so it was an eager group of reporters who huddled around James Sands this past Thursday night inside the New York City FC locker room for the 16-year-old’s first press “scrum” as a professional soccer player.
Sands had impressed in pre-season, then went on to excel for the U.S. U17 side at the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers and the midfielder/defender is expected back with his national team peers at the age-group World Cup in India this autumn.
In the meantime, however, Sands put pen to paper to become the first player to sign on with New York City Football Club under the Homegrown Player rule and now it was time to meet the press.
Standing in front of an NYCFC backdrop stood a tall, blonde, somewhat nervous, young man. The first question, or rather his new teammate’s reaction to that question, broke the ice.
As Sands considered how to answer that question, “how does it feel to finally call yourself a professional soccer player?” loud cheers and laughter erupted from a group of his now fellow pros.
It was something of welcome to ranks, kid moment and Sands relaxed a bit. “It’s definitely a special feeling for me, it’s a dream come true and for it to happen at a club like this, at a local club, it’s a true honor.”
Relaxed or not, Sands sounded most his age when he asked what has surprised him about his ascension to the paid ranks.
“I think just meeting them in person, just seeing how they’re just normal people like everyone else,” Sands began. “They’re superstars on this team but just getting to know them, it’s special.”
Sands had been around the veterans back in the pre-season and GotSoccer asked Jack Harrison, at 20 a grizzled veteran, for his impressions of his young teammate.
“We were roommates in the preseason actually and I got to know him a little bit and help him with his homework as much as I can,” Harrison said to more laughter. “No, he’s a great kid and a fantastic addition to the team. It’s not only great for the team, it’s great for him as well. I’m excited to play alongside him.”
Sands doesn’t figure see much if any first team action in 2017, a club release notes that the Rye, New York native “will complete summer school in July and will train with the first-team around his international obligations.”
But back to the scrum. Sands is a twin, and brother Will is a prospect with the NYCFC Academy team, so I had to ask, is there any jealousy there? It was another jocular moment and Sands smiled before delivering a very mature answer. “No, he’s definitely been supportive. We’re naturally competitive, being twins but I think he’s still there pushing me and I think it benefits both of us.”
Sands had made it through his first small test as a pro and soon he will be off to India for one last outing with the U.S. Boys National Team at the U17 World Cup. That will close the “Boys” portion of James Sands’ career and begin a new chapter for James Sands, professional soccer player.