Crew’s Will Sands suffers ACL tear, will have season-ending surgery

After emerging as a rotational player last season and establishing himself as a starter this year, Will Sands’ second professional campaign has come to a premature end. The Columbus Crew announced on Monday that the left back suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Charlotte FC and will have surgery to repair the injury, ending Sands’ 2023 season.

Sands suffered the injury in the opening 10 minutes of the game at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday when he and Charlotte midfielder Kamil Jóźwiak chased a long ball into the Crew’s defensive third. Jóźwiak put in a challenge, which was whistled for a foul by the referee and left Sands crumpled on the turf holding his left knee. After several minutes of being examined by the Black & Gold’s medical staff, Sands was stretchered off the field with his hands over his face, clearly in distress.

“It is disappointing to lose Will for the year as a club and especially for him personally, as he was truly coming into form on the pitch early in the season,” Columbus president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the release announcing Sands’ injury. “He has always attacked his preparation with great drive and positive energy, and we know he will carry that same mindset into his recovery process.”

While Wilfried Nancy did not have a full update following the match, the head coach did not give much in the way of a positive update on Sands during his postgame press conference.

“I cannot talk too much because we don’t know exactly, but this is not good,” Nancy said. “It’s not good. For the moment, I don’t want to talk, because I didn’t meet the medical staff, but this is not good.”

The Crew moved quickly to find help at left back, acquiring Malte Amundsen from New York City FC on Monday night before the MLS transfer window closed.

Coming up through the New York City FC Academy, Columbus acquired Sands’ rights in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and signed the young left back to a two-year contract with options for two more years prior to the 2022 season. This came following four years playing at Georgetown where Sands made 53 appearances, recording four goals and five assists and helping his team win the 2019 NCAA College Cup title as well as two Big East Conference Tournaments (2019, 2021) and three Big East regular-season championships (2019, 2020, 2021).

As a rookie under head coach Caleb Porter last season, Sands made 12 appearances, five starts, for Columbus and registered one assist. His professional debut came in a 2-1 win against Atlanta United last May where Sands replaced the injured Pedro Santos after just 24 minutes of the game.

This season, Sands became a routine starter under Nancy, deployed in a more attacking left wing back role as part of the head coach’s 3-4-2-1 formation. The 22 year old played and started seven of the Crew’s nine matches this year, missing two games earlier in the season with a minor injury. He recorded two assists in 488 minutes.

Without Sands, Nancy will look for another option to take over the left wing back. Yaw Yeboah, a natural right right winger, has filled in at that spot already this year and replaced Sands on Saturday following the injury. Yeboah was then replaced late in the match by veteran left back Jimmy Medranda, who signed with the Black & Gold this offseason from the Seattle Sounders.

“The idea is to have an offensive player in this position and to be able to repeat the action at that intensity,” Nancy said on Saturday night when asked about the decision to first bring in Yeboah and then Medranda. “That’s why we felt that Yaw was able to do it. And Jimmy was not able to do it for the moment, for a long time. So that’s why we made this chance. And Jimmy  came in after that to bring his quality in terms of a pass.”

3 thoughts on “Crew’s Will Sands suffers ACL tear, will have season-ending surgery

  1. This is terrible news for Will Sands. I’m sad for him. Hopefully, he recovers quickly and bounces back just like Morris did following his knee injury. For the team, this is terrible, too. We don’t really have a good replacement for him. Perhaps Malte Admundsen can do it, maybe Medranda will finally be fit enough to play 90.


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