BRONX, N.Y. — A difficult month just got a lot worse for James Sands.
First the 18-year-old New York City FC Homegrown signing missed out on playing in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and now Sands will likely be out for a month after suffering a broken arm in a 5-2 win over FC Cincinnati at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night.
Sands, who has been a defensive rock whether it’s as a holding midfielder or — more recently — as a central defender, suffered the injury in a collision with goalkeeper Brad Stuver. He attempted to play through the pain, but was forced off for Sebastien Ibeagha in the 57th minute.
Although NYCFC don’t play another MLS game until June 29, Sands will be sorely missed for next week’s U.S. Open Cup match against North Carolina FC. It further complicates things for coach Dome Torrent, who will also be without Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot to international duty, leaving Ibeagha as the only true center back on his roster.
“It’s a shame for Jimmy,” Torrent said of Sands, who was on the verge of being called up to Jason Kreis’ U.S. U-23 national team. “I’m so sorry for him because he deserved to play for the national team and it was a good opportunity for him. After that happened we have to adapt quickly. We can play with Chanot. He’ll miss the Open Cup, but he’ll be back for the next game against Philadelphia 100 percent.”
Torrent could slide Alex Ring back to partner with Ibeagha or Ben Sweat, who missed Thursday’s match with an ankle injury.
Either way, it’s certain that Sands — who has started all 12 games he’s appeared in this season — will be sidelined for up to a month.
“We have to adapt. Don’t complain because you waste time when you think about this,” Torrent said. “We have to choose the right players for the next game. I repeat it’s a pity for him because he played really well in the season, but he’s a young player and he has time to to recover. The most important thing is recover well and after that he has time to play again for us.”
NYCFC’s third-ever Homegrown signing, Justin Haak, made his long-awaited Major League Soccer debut, coming off the bench for the final four minutes of the match Thursday.
It was a special moment for the 17-year-old from Brooklyn.
“It’s hard to describe, but to do it here, Yankee Stadium, in front of the home fans, it just felt amazing,” Haak said.
Haak sensed his opportunity was coming, especially after improvements at training. When it finally did, he shared a friendly word and a smile with Fourth Official Robert Sibiga before replacing Alexandru Mitrita to a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 18,597.
“He just told me to enjoy the game, have fun out there,” Haak said.
There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about his performance, but it was important for Haak just to get a run-out, especially with the strong possibility of significantly more minutes in the U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday.
“It’s definitely going to help me feel more comfortable for the next step to maybe get some more minutes,” Haak said.
According to NYCFC captain Alex Ring, Haak was rewarded for his hard work at training.
“For Justin, a debut is always big,” Ring said. “I’m very happy for him. He’s been working hard. He just has to keep on going. I mean, it’s just the start of this career. You know, that was me 10 years ago. It feels ages ago.”
Pep in the house
One of the largest cheers in the second half was reserved for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who was shown on the large video board sitting with NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna in a luxury suite and greeted the team after the match.
Pretty good night for Justin Haak… pic.twitter.com/5dG78xvCwE
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) June 7, 2019
It’s not a surprise that Guardiola took in the match. After all, he’s regularly proclaimed his love for New York City, and NYCFC is a sister club of Man City and he’s close friends with Torrent.
“Maybe this is the reason why we scored seven goals. I’m kidding, no, but I’m very happy because when Pep told me I want to meet with you in New York, its always a pleasure,” Torrent said, referencing the five goals his team scored as well as the pair of own goals. “It’s not about for me he’s the best coach ever, it’s not about that. It’s because he’s my friend. I work with him 11 years and it’s a pleasure for me to meet in New York with him. I’m very happy because he can watch the game.
“It’s a good game, okay, seven goals, it’s not bad. It’s a present for him.”