NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira impressed with 16-year-old James Sands

New York City FC academy product James Sands could earn himself a spot on the City first team, according to boss Patrick Vieira.

Sands, 16, was one of the standout performers in a 2-2 friendly draw at Ecuadorian giants Emelec on Wednesday, and Vieira said the strong showing in front of 40,000 at the refurbished Estadio George Capwell came as no surprise.

"It just confirmed how we already felt about him," Vieira told Soccer by Ives after the match. "He made the team play."

The Rye, New York, native's play has him a candidate to be promoted from the Under-16 Academy to the senior team with the likes of Andrea Pirlo and David Villa, despite being just a junior in high school.

"He's proven he can play with the first team," said director of football operations Claudio Reyna before Wednesday's match. "But we haven't yet discussed that with him or his parents. It's one of the first discussions we'll have when we get back from Tucson.

"We have to speak to his parents about the possibility of signing but we are not even there yet. We'll take it slow with him and see how he does the rest of preseason."

Vieira, however, isn't at all concerned by Sands' age.

"Age is just a number -- it's about his desire to compete and the talent," said Vieira. "He understands the game like a 30-year-old. He's got personality and he's really good on the ball."

Sands has also caught the eye of some of NYCFC's biggest stars, such as Villa, who has been taken in by the youthful midfielder's his intelligence.

"He's really an amazing guy -- so smart, so smart," the former Valencia and Barcelona striker said. "We are all very impressed with James. Not only in the game tonight [Wednesday] but in training every day.

"It's good news -- very good news for New York City."