Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has scored in his last four games, including the game-winning strike in New York City FC’s 1-0 win Wednesday over Atlanta United. The Libyan international feels he’s earned a starting role among NYCFC’s crowded attacking options.
“I do my best every session and to show the coaching staff to try and show everyone that I’m a starting player,” Tajouri-Shradi told media postgame. “I’m not happy at all, everyone knows that, when I’m on the bench.”
Tajouri-Shradi’s 69th minute goal earned NYCFC all three points at Red Bull Arena, bringing the team to fourth in the Eastern Conference after a stumble against the New England Revolution on Saturday.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) June 24, 2021
NYCFC earned a handful of chances throughout the game with its high press, forcing Atlanta to awkward passes that often ended up in a change of possession. A misplaced ball from Miles Robinson ended up at the feet of Keaton Parks, who began the attack immediately. City outnumbered Atlanta’s defense, getting the ball to Tajouri-Shradi through a simple combination with Valentin Castellanos in just a few seconds.
In a game where the hosts consistently created opportunities that lacked a final product, Tajouri-Shradi made no mistake with his shot past Brad Guzan.
The strike was the Libyan’s second game-winning goal of the season and tenth with the club, a feat he feels separates himself from the rest of head coach Ronny Deila’s choices. NYCFC welcomed a trio of new attackers this Spring, threatening minutes for Jesús Medina, Andres Jasson and Tajouri-Shradi.
“I will say the competition is very, very hard,” Tajouri-Shradi said. “We get new players, we get quality players, everyone knows. Everyone knows in the training, how they want to give their best.”
Tayvon Gray’s full debut
NYCFC may have turned to Tayvon Gray to accommodate its congested schedule but the 18 year-old made his mark in his first professional start.
The young full back got his first nod from Deila Wednesday night, replacing the reliable Anton Tinnerholm along the right side of the team’s defensive line. Despite having only two appearances under his belt, Gray looked comfortable alongside his teammates and wasn’t fearful of pushing up the field.
“I’m definitely learning from these guys for sure but like I said I’ve been playing our national team stuff like that stuff just kind of put the level just a little bit higher,” Gray said. “Through the academy we would always come up and play so like it’s just normal.”
The former U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team defender identified Atlanta’s Marcelo Moreno as his main opposition and adjusted his plans accordingly. Atlanta United’s man-marking defensive approach allowed Gray to feel comfortable moving up along the right side and create chances, including his first shot on goal.
“I think I stepped up, I showed that I’m pretty much ready,” Gray said. “I feel like I’m very versatile, so whatever the game asks of me if it’s like a Nani on the wing where I need to be more defensive, I can do it. If it’s like someone who’s just going up then I feel like I can just attack so I feel like my aim is both sides.”
Gray is the most recent addition of the three homegrown players that took the field for the youngest NYCFC lineup in club history. Though the Bronx native stood out on his full debut, he noted post-game that he doesn’t get discouraged with his place in Deila’s depth chart.
NO new faces
Following a disappointing loss to the Revolution which featured all three of NYCFC’s June additions, Ronny Deila switched gears to include more familiar faces against Atlanta United.
Thiago Andrade was unable to build on his goal scoring debut after being left as an unused substitute Wednesday night. Talles Mango was among the five changes made to NYCFC’s starting lineup with Nicolás Acevedo getting his fifth start in the last six games.
“It’s competition so you know I need different things in different games,” Deila said. “These boys need to learn how I want things.”
The absence of Santiago Rodriguez can be chalked up to the lack of time the Uruguayan has spent with his new side. Rodriguez joined on June 9th on loan from Montevideo City Torque and hasn’t had adequate time to settle in. The 20 year-old debuted in Saturday’s 3-2 loss with a substitute appearance in the game’s final minutes but Deila is in no rush to get his new attacker acclimated.
“They’re not used to that tempo, they’re not used to how we play,” Deila added. “They need time to do that.”