FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Although New York City FC’s shiny new Designated Player, 20-year-old Paraguayan Jesus Medina, is widely considered the main replacement for former stud winger Jack Harrison, another newcomer has also made a big impact early on for Patrick Vieira’s squad.
While it’s likely true that Medina will play a primary playmaking role out wide, Austrian Bundesliga veteran Ismael Tajouri has show he’s more than just a squad player with three goals over the previous two games.
“When I hear about New York City FC, I am interested. I was very excited, I was very happy because we have a very big coach, Patrick Vieira,” Tajouri said on Saturday. “He is a very good coach and when I come here I say I want to make the next steps because with Patrick I think I can do it.”
The 23-year-old Libyan international spent the last seven years in the Austrian first and second divisions, playing in the Austria Wien and Rheindorf Altach club systems, and he has taken advantage of injuries and international duty to jump into the starting lineup the last two weeks, playing a big role in keeping NYCFC (3-0-1) unbeaten through four matches.
“We have a very good team with David (Villa), with the other players as well I think, as well as the keeper (Sean Johnson),” Tajouri said. ‘To come here I think I can make something special with this team.”
Tajouri substituted on the first two weeks of the season, but with Villa out of the lineup the past two matches with a calf strain, he started up top and scored the go-ahead goal in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Orlando City SC.
Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita both missed Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution away on international duty with Costa Rica. Tajouri earned the start out wide and rewarded Vieira’s confidence in him.
NYCFC trailed twice against the Revs, but Tajouri rallied them back twice with goals in the 51st and 75th minutes to help secure a 2-2 draw on the road.
“It’s not easy to come back in New England,” Tajouri said. “The pitch is not what we want, but we know that before and we come two times back. It’s a very, very big mentality from us and we saw how good we are.”
Both goals against the Revs were confident and well-taken, starting with a counterattack down the right side early on in the second half.
Medina found Saad Abdul-Salaam on an overlapping run in the 51st minute and he centered it to Tajouri unmarked by the penalty spot for a one-touch redirect that left Revs goalie Matt Turner with too little time to react.
“Ish is really talented. I’m happy to see him do so well in the league,” Abdul-Salaam said. “Each game and each day in the practice he’s getting better and I’m happy he’s getting the chance to show it.”
Later on, in the 75th minute, Yangel Herrera threaded the needle up the middle with a great pass to find Tajouri in between Revolution defenders Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba.
Just as impressive, though, was Tajouri’s ability to quickly open his body and again get off a quick left-footed shot to beat Turner into the left side of goal.
“He spun and then got it off of his feet really quick and obviously that was unfortunate,” Farrell said. “It’s a bang-bang kind of play.”
“I am very happy with my three goals, but I keep going,” Tajouri said. “I am very happy with the team here and that we take the point. Of course, that I scored two goals I am very happy about that, but moreover that the team played very well. It was very hard here to play and we know that.”
Tajouri has given Vieira a good kind of problem, with tough lineup decisions to make when the squad is back at full strength. If he can keep producing, NYCFC could end up one of the most potent offenses in MLS this year.