Nick Cushing says James Sands is thoroughly deserving of his US Men’s National Team call-up.
The midfielder has been selected to represent his country against Mexico on April 19, having made his debut in July 2021.
Speaking to the media ahead of City’s MLS fixture against Nashville SC on Saturday, Cushing shared an injury update on Sands, who had been forced off against Atlanta United last weekend.
While the Head Coach admits this weekend’s clash at Citi Field may come too soon for the Club's first Homegrown player, he hopes the 22-year-old will be fit to feature for his country.
“I think the US game won’t be a problem for James,” Cushing explained. “We’re hoping he’ll be ready for Saturday. With his pain tolerance and knowing he’s going to have three games in a week, maybe we have to be smart with James.
“He still has pain – thankfully, it wasn’t anything serious, but it is on the top of the foot, and there’s a lot of pain there. He's not been outside this week – maybe this game comes too soon for him, I don’t know.
“There’s no problem with the US National Team. If our game was Tuesday or Wednesday, we’d have no problem with him looking at three games in a week. That problem might solve itself, simply because it might end up just being two games – the US and FC Dallas.
“We’re thoroughly pleased for him because he has a huge determination to be in the National Team, to play at the highest level, to continue to improve, and when you work with guys like that – who put so much in and are so dedicated, and completely dedicate their life to wanting to be the best player they can be – when they get recognition, like a National Team call-up, we share that delight with him.
“We want him to go and play well, and enjoy it. For me, it’s thoroughly deserved.”
Though Matías Pellegrini is suspended for the visit of Nashville, Cushing added he has no new injury concerns, with Richy Ledezma pushing for a start.
“The update on the squad is that everybody has been healthy this week,” he continued. “Of course, we've had some little knocks like the James Sands one; we've had some players that have had cumulative minutes without a lot of preseason minutes, so you've seen the likes of Gabriel Pereira come out, but he's in contention to start the game.
“Richy has shown this week he's really hungry to play. He is in contention to start – whether he has 90 minutes, we just don't know, because he hasn't played it. It's unlikely, but at the same time, it depends on how the game's going – it depends on what type of game we get.
“If we get the type of game that we want, he’ll be really effective in the game. One thing I can say about Richy Ledezma is: I've been really pleased with his attitude, his desire and hunger to want to contribute, to want to get into the team, to want to improve, to want to get physically ready to play.
“He's in a really good place compared to when he came in, and he's really hungry. I spoke to him this morning. Of course, when you see that a guy like James Sands is maybe 50-50, and that Matías Pellegrini has the cautions, you see the opening, and I see a guy that has the spark in his eye and wants to play, so he's definitely in contention to start the game.
“We’re in a really good place, and we're really pleased with the progress that we're making, whilst also being really aware that we need to improve in areas.
“The feel of the group – the hunger, and the desire, and the togetherness – is growing every week. The chemistry between guys that probably didn't get preseason together, or haven't played together, like James Sands, Keaton Parks, Santiago Rodríguez, Gabriel Pereira, those guys… they're grown every week without having the preseason together.
“We're aware of that, but we're also impatient – we want to play well, we want to win, we want to have the complete performance. We've reviewed and analyzed the last three games this week, and looked at areas where we can be better using the Atlanta game as that main focus being the last game.”
NYCFC face Nashville for the second time this season, having traveled to GEODIS Park in the 2023 opener, with the hosts claiming a 2-0 win.
Like City, the NSC have had a mixed start to the campaign but hold the league’s best defensive record with five clean sheets.
With February’s fixture fresh in the mind, Cushing insists his side have noted areas of improvement, and are looking to storm back to winning ways, inspired by home advantage at Citi Field.
“We’ve had the fortune of playing them before away,” he stated. “They’re really difficult, and they’ve got the best defensive record in MLS – and that doesn’t surprise me, because of their desire, and hunger.
“They’re really well-coached, and they have a guy like Hany Mukhtar, who is really dangerous. We saw that in the game when they brought him on – you give him moments on the counter-attack, you give him space in and around the edge of the box, and he’s going to create goals for himself, or for others.
“You can see that in the Orlando game, when they went away there. They’ve proved they can win on the road, they’ve proved they can defend really effectively, so it’s going to be a really difficult game for us.
“We always use our home field as an advantage for us, whether it be Yankee Stadium, or Citi Field. It’s the atmosphere, the feel that we have, the connection that we have with the fans. It’s something really special for us, so it always helps in our preparation, and it's always a huge driver in the way that we want to play, and what we want to give to the fans
“We know that what we give, we get back 10 times over in atmosphere and noise in support. The last time we were here at Citi Field was the [Inter] Miami game, and it was an incredible occasion – it was a good performance, a great atmosphere, a really good connection.
“If we can get that again at Citi Field, we have a great chance to win the game. I said earlier in the season before our home opener (even though it was a Yankee Stadium), about that Miami game where we just fed off the atmosphere in the middle of the game, and we scored a goal.
“The players have a really good connection with the fans, and it's a real special occasion. If we do that week in, week out, we will continue to create moments, and we'll create something really special.
“We’re really excited by where we can take this team, and we are working every day. If we have a team of guys that continue to work, to want to improve, with the team that we have, with the level of experience we have, we're only going to improve.
“I'm pleased with the progression that we're making, although I'm impatient, and I want progression to happen quicker. The reality is we're on a journey, and we’re improving every week.”
NYCFC are back on home soil this weekend for the second of our three-game home stand.
Tickets for the game are now available. Don't miss your chance to cheer on the City Boys!
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