NYCFC Homegrown James Sands trusts Patrick Vieira's process

James Sands pregame warming up

ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — “There’s a plan in place.”

That is New York City FC’s version of “trust the process” when it comes to their first Homegrown signing, James Sands.

While fans are clamoring for the 17-year-old defensive midfielder to make his first Major League Soccer start, Sands is calm.

“I’m still only 17. I’m not rushing anything,” Sands told “We have a very specific plan in place. As long as I follow that plan, more opportunities will come down the road. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

For now, Sands is third on the depth chart at the No. 6 position, behind Alex Ring and newcomer Ebenezer Ofori. They are different players — Ring might have better vision and closes down passing lanes faster, while the left-footed Ofori is a bit more athletic and uses his pace to cover ground.

As for Sands, he’s just trying to soak it all in and take something from each player, and of course from Patrick Vieira, as well. The NYCFC coach played at the highest level in the same position.

“For me being able to pick up what each one of them does well and try to replicate it in my game,” Sands said. “I think the combination of all three of them have really helped me and I enjoy working with them every day.”

With Ring away on international duty last week, Vieira said he contemplated utilizing Sands against the New England Revolution last Saturday, but he erred on the side of caution and Ofori played 87 minutes before coming off due to cramping.

Instead of Sands, Vieira brought on an extra defender in Sebastian Ibeagha to lock down the away point.

“I think this one was a difficult one — the field, the physical side of the game, the experience for that position,” Vieira said. “I think all the elements weren’t there for me to try to play him, but he’s in a really good level. He’s working well, he’s working hard, he’s progressing every day. There is no doubt he will play some games during the season.”

“When” isn’t a question Sands is asking, though. He said he’s encouraged to hear Vieira say MLS minutes are in his future.

“Anytime the manager shows that kind of confidence in a young kid I think it will help me to see he sees a future at the club for me and that there will be minutes down the road,” Sands said. “Anytime he says that it’s just a boost of confidence to me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Will that happen sooner than later? The initial word on Ring, who suffered an MCL sprain and subluxation of his patella to his right knee, would be that the Finnish international would be sidelined for four weeks.

Vieira bristled at that prognosis, saying “we committed ourselves too early saying it’s four weeks” and that he didn’t agree with the length of the period.

In fact Ring was training on the side on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Vieira said he was impressed with Ofori, the 22-year-old Ghanaian who arrived on loan from Stuttgart in February.

“He showed a lot of experience, he was really calm on the ball,” Vieira said. “Defensively I think he helped the team a lot. … When a player gives everything to the team this is the minimum that I ask. I think “Eben” was really good for us and he will be a really important player for us.”

Sands, who made his MLS debut coming off the substitute’s bench to replace Andrea Pirlo for 23 minutes of a 1-1 draw at Colorado last September, just puts his head down and works hard at training.

After an abbreviated stint with the first team a year ago — he only signed as a Homegrown in July and was away with the US U-17 national team for World Cup qualifiers — Sands is now training every day, which has helped his development immensely.

He knows there’s improvements to be made — physically he needs to get stronger and there’s work to do on his speed and agility.

But Sands trusts the plan Vieira has laid out.