Goalkeepers Share Spotlight with 18-Year Old Sands as NYCFC and DC United Go Goalless at Yankee Stadium

Posted By Peter Nolan on March 11, 2019 - Last Updated on March 12, 2019

The story of Sunday’s 0-0 draw between New York City FC (NYCFC) and DC United was, not surprisingly, a game of “can you top this” that played out over 90 minutes between U.S. National Team adjacent goalkeepers Sean Johnson (NYC) and Bill Hamid (DC).

Speaking at his post-game press conference, New York City coach Dome Torrent said it this way, “Today the keepers, for me, were the best players. Sean for us and the keeper for DC.”

The coach added that he continues to see improvement in the play of his 29-year-old goalkeeper. “I am very happy with Sean,” Torrent said later in that same presser. He also singling out Johnson’s buildup play and noted, “every single day he plays better.”

When Goalies Shine, Offense Gets Dimmer

From a less optimistic NYCFC point of view, perhaps yesterday’s top news was the lack of goals, particularly with one David Villa scoring in his second consecutive match in Japan. With El Guaje now leading the line for Vissel Kobe, nearly 7,000 miles away from the Bronx, NYC still doesn’t have a recognized striker on its roster. However, Torrent sounded hopeful that help could be arriving soon, stating:

“We have the right people at the club working at that, maybe in the next two or three weeks we will be able to sign another player.”

James Sands Earns High Praise

Then again, the most important long-term development to emerge for the home team from Sunday’s stalemate may have been the role played by 18-year-old central midfielder James Sands. His coach certainly gave him a ringing endorsement after Sunday’s match, stating, “Jimmy is our future.”

The first player signed by NYCFC as part of the league’s homegrown player program, Sands has started the first two games of this new season after playing in just three games for NYCFC in 2018.

Alongside team captain Alex Ring, Sands was handed a big assignment versus DC and Torrent was more than pleased with the youngster. “He was amazing today,” Torrent enthused, “he controlled Rooney and Acosta.” As in Wayne Rooney, the former Manchester United icon, and Lucho Acosta, recent PSG target.

Speaking in front of his locker after the game, Sands was asked about going head-to-head with Rooney. “Yeah, I think it’s always a challenge when you play someone of that quality,” Sands remarked, “but you know I felt up for it he’s always up for it. So I think it just led to a good battle on the field.”

His goalkeeper was certainly impressed with his young teammate. “I thought you saw today a lot of moments where he’s really good on the ball, he’s calm,” Johnson began. “As a goalkeeper,” Johnson values the ability that Sands has to, “cut out important passes, make important challenges.” “It really disrupts the flow of the game” and Johnson adds, “puts out a lot of fires.”

Despite getting so little playing time last season Sands said of Torrent, “I think he always believed in me but I think this year I’ve felt more ready and I think he’s seen me as more ready to play and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

It sounds like Sands is at a good place to see playing time despite his young age. “It is never you are too young to play soccer,” Torrent explained. “I want to see the young players if they have quality – when you are 16 years old,” the coach underlined, “it depends on the quality.”

Still, Torrent would be expelled from the Coaches Union if he didn’t offer at least a word of caution on his young midfielder. “He is a clever player,” the coach said, “but maybe the next game (you) play another player because if you have a balanced team you have 18  players that deserve to play and as a coach, you make a mistake if every game you play the same 11 every single day.”

So, no promises then for Sands – just plenty of promise.

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Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan has been on the soccer beat for many years now, covering the United States Men's and Women's teams, from the SnowClasico to Azteca and back again. Along with the US national teams, Peter will provide insight into the MLS and NWSL, with a focus on the NY Red Bulls and NYCFC.

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