At 20, James Sands is already in his second season at MLS side New York City FC. After getting promoted from their second team back in 2018, James would be looking to build on his solid campaign in 2019, after the league resumes. He is yet to make his international bow for the USMNT, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens now that he is in his second full season as a first-team regular, despite the MLS being called off due to the pandemic.

This is the scout report of James Sands, and we will take a look at his playing style and techniques and tactical analysis, beyond what meets the eye to gain a better understanding of his overall gameplay, his aide in the attacking side of the game as well as the defence and how he works in transitions and his attributes which sum up as his strengths and weaknesses.

Attacking Phase

In his analysis as a defensive player, it’s going to be very rare that he will contribute to the attack of the team constantly and directly when compared to a midfielder or a forward, or even a full back for that matter. Sands is a versatile player, as he has the ability to play as a centre back, or a defensive midfielder depending on where he is deployed in the starting eleven. But close to 14 forward passes attempted per 90, speaks well for a player who attempts close to 42 passes across the full 90. And he is capable of the occasional line breaking, lung-bursting surge into the final third to make something out of nothing. His versatility may paint the stats a little grey since his positional flexibility might imply his stats might be inflated due to playing in a position which can be eliminated once seen him in action on the pitch. His 3.2 attempted long balls is another asset for his team, as it shows, even at such a young age, he is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and is not hurried under the pressure and completing 1.95 of those long balls is another plus point added by his name.

James Sands: 2020 - Scout Report - tactical analysis
James is prepping himself to launch an accurate cross-field ball to his team-mate

Defensive Phase

A defender is judged by his defensive capabilities, and almost 3 tackles and clearances attempted per 90, does not speak for a great defensive prospect, but his maturity allows him to read the game well, and make tackles only which come up necessary and rather intercept the ball than go lunging in, which is quantified by his 4.6 interceptions per 90. A good defender might put up great numbers, but a quality defender doesn’t allow the need to actually act on a defensive act and eliminate its possibility of arising before it actually becomes a threat. He attempts to recover the ball lost in transition as well as a sloppy bass by attempting 8.6 recoveries per 90, although he’s only successful with 1.5 of them, it shows he is aware of where to try to recover the ball rather than running around the pitch after the ball hoping to get something out of it while risking his team’s position and shape. With 6.6 attempted defensive duels, and succeeding in 4.6 of them, explains that he is not afraid of roughing it against his opponents and is capable of doing the dirty work for his team to flourish. Sands attempts 2.4 loose ball duels which are pretty decent as it shows he doesn’t shy away from a 50-50 challenge.

James Sands: 2020 - Scout Report - tactical analysis
Sands is adept at 1v1 defending


Staying so deep in the team’s set up, be it at DM, or in central defence, it only means one thing, Sands is charged with either clearing the ball out of their own defensive third by clearing it out of danger or move it up-field for the attackers to make something out of the proposed scenario. Till he finally settles in on a position as he grows up, his dribbling stats, nor his progressive runs are of going to of much help, as it would be hard to look at the overall stat of a season under a particular header and make something out of it, and if each game’s stat is read individually, it stands against him, because it will either portray him as inconsistent, or unsettled which is not a good thing to say about a young prospect who has bags of potential.

James Sands: 2020 - Scout Report - tactical analysis
James doesn’t panic as his team is under pressure from a counter attack during transition.

4 through passes attempted, 7 progressive runs attempted, 11 dribbles attempted across 19 games, and 1602 mins. It comes as a pretty bleak read, and it only makes a case against him, despite the position he plays in.


James is mature beyond his age and his gameplay specifically indicates that. His positional play in between the matches and his understanding of the tactics employed from deep, stepping up from CB when needed to add an extra body in midfield or to come back and slot in beside the other CBs from DM to provide the defensive solidity for the rest of his teammates, it shows how good he is at reading the game. His positional versatility adds to his positive attributes as it allows the coach to pick him to fill in when someone might be unavailable for some unforeseen reasons. Which develops the trust put in him, and might help him develop into one of the most trusted men wherever he may go in his career. His defensive discipline mixed with a bit of courage adds to his sterling list of attributes as to why he is one player who is so good at what he does.

James Sands: 2020 - Scout Report - tactical analysis
James perfectly times his charge towards the ball to win it back and drive forward to a position where he can threaten the opposition defence.


His aerial prowess is one of the few things anyone can call him out on, as his height plays against him in the backline, which would suggest that it might be favourable for him to slot in as a DM from where he can do the most damage to the opponents, in the long run. Even though he plays too deep in NYCFC’s set up, he is yet to register his first goal involvement with them in over 30 appearances. His goal involvement does not stand against him but would look well if he’s capable of chipping in with a few goals and assists over the course of a season. He needs to develop his runs and speculative passes by-passing the opponents, as well as his ball-carrying ability, from deep or otherwise.


James Sands’s scout report glorifies him as a quality young prospect who still needs a few years to come up on his own, and properly establish himself as a name, as he is still to convince anyone outside of the NYCFC set-up and those who haven’t seen him in action of what he is capable of, never mind what is potential is and how highly he is rated by his peers and coaches. Till he settles down on a position for himself to develop his game on, he will still be considered a utility player whoever may be looking at him as a prospective transfer. Sands needs to stabilize his position and establish himself as a quality player in that position. For all his positives and negatives, he is one player who cannot be written off without extensive assessment, and even then, he might convince whoever may be assessing him, that he is something different.