Physically and emotionally, it has been a turbulent season for James Sands.
The 18-year-old New York City FC homegrown, who had earned full-time status with the first team after a quality preseason, suffered his second major injury Saturday during a 4-1 triumph at FC Cincinnati.
Both impairments have come in matches against the MLS expansion side.
The Rye, N.Y., native was writhing in pain just four minutes into Saturday’s match after Mathieu DePlagne toppled onto Sands, inadvertently driving the defender’s right shoulder into the artificial surface at Nippert Stadium.
The result: a broken collarbone and another extended absence for the teenager who has marshaled the NYCFC back line when healthy.
During City’s 5-2 win over FCC June 6 at Yankee Stadium, Sands broke his right arm in a collision with teammate Brad Stuver. He missed the next four matches.
“It’s not good news for us because I love this player,” head coach Dome Torrent lamented.
Sands began the season as a starter in the midfield, but Torrent soon discovered that his greatest value was at the back.
“We need this player. We need everybody, but especially this player,” Torrent said. “Sometimes the soccer is not fair with the players, and right now it’s not fair with Jimmy. He deserves to play with our team. He’s an amazing player. It’s bad news for us.”
Ben Sweat, who had missed the previous two matches with an ailing back, went through a hasty warm-up while Sands was being treated. Sweat entered the match after just six minutes.
“It’s difficult – a little more difficult when its just five or six minutes in,” Sweat said. “As professionals, you have to be ready mentally. And physically you can ease into the game and take the first five or ten minutes – and that’s what I did.
“Everyone’s a little different. As reserves, we’re not entitled to do a full warmup so most of us try to get a good individual stretch because we need to be ready at any given moment. Tonight was a perfect example.”
Torrent said he’s very happy with Sweat and his focus on the pitch.
“It’s a pity for Jimmy, but I’m very happy with the performance of Ben,” Torrent said.
In addition to Sands, the NYCFC stable of backs was deprived of regulars Anton Tinnerholm (hamstring) and Alexander Callens (calf).
Eric Miller filled in for Tinnerholm at right back and drew the corner kick that led to Taty Castellanos’ game winning header.
Miller joked: “Yeah, I wish they counted those for assists that would be great for me. Any time you keep a team under a sustained amount of pressure, you always have a good chance whether its corners or set pieces – I think we were really sharp on set pieces today.”
It was the first corner kick goal of the season for NYCFC.
“I don’t know how long Anton’s going to be out but that’s why they brought me here,” said Miller, who was acquired in a trade with Minnesota United. “I have a lot of room to grow. Being a little sharper in possession, providing a little bit more going forward and understanding our system a little better. I have a lot of stuff to improve on.”
Miller could feature again Wednesday night when New York City hosts Columbus Crew SC ahead of Saturday’s Hudson River Derby against the New York Red Bulls.