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Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is the Attacker NYCFC has been Missing

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Shradi Doddy; He likes to party. He just scores goals, he don’t bother nobody.

MLS: New York City FC at New England Revolution Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Widely viewed as a quality depth signing during the offseason, no one expected Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to be a critical player for New York City FC this season. However, both opportunity and his own breathtaking talent have shown us just how vital he is to City’s hopes at winning a trophy this season.

After a great start to the season — where the club started 2-0 for the first time in its brief history — worry overtook the fanbase as David Villa was slated to miss time due to a calf injury. Villa missing time rightfully elicited panic from many as the last few seasons have proven just how anemic NYCFC’s attack has been when El Guaje is not on the pitch. The 2017 campaign magnified this even further once the club no longer had Frank Lampard and his 12 goals from 2016. Without Villa, who would step up to score the goals?

Enter Shradi, who has started the last 3 matches, and contributed in every single one of his starts — scoring a goal against Orlando City, then a brace against the New England Revolution, and finally making a beautiful pass in the box to find Maxi Moralez against the San Jose Earthquakes in their come-from-behind road victory. That puts him at 3 goals scored and 1 assist in his 3 starts this season, playing both as a center forward and on the left wing. While his first goal was a bit of a gift, his quality and talent really shined in his performance in New England where he scored an impressive brace and helped claim a point on the road to keep City undefeated on the season. Playing a Revs side that was very physical and looking to keep NYCFC on the back foot, Shradi showcased his fire, toughness, and competitive spirit to score not once but twice for a City side that was desperately looking for answers against New England. After making a beautiful run into the box to put in the first goal off of a beautiful Saad Abdul-Salaam cutback pass, Shradi showed off his individual skills when he rocketed this goal past:

While players like Jesus Medina and Maxi have stepped up as well in Villa’s absence, those performances were expected from the club’s other Designated Players. But for a player like Shradi, mostly seen as a bench piece or someone you would sub on for a Medina or Rodney Wallace even, his performance has opened the door for NYCFC to perhaps hit another level of excellence that was not attainable last season. As important as Wallace has been at times for defensive pressure, adding a player like Shradi to a front three including Villa (when he returns) and Medina, with Maxi playing behind them, elevates City’s attack to a level it never really had last season.

Medina has proven to be a technical wizard with the ball, Villa is the reigning MVP, and to add a player as fearless — and Vieira’s favorite word “ruthless” — as Shradi along with El Guaje in front of goal appears to finally present an answer to the question “How do we lighten Villa’s scoring load?” this year. Even with Villa missing 3 games already this season, NYCFC are tied for first in goals scored (10) and are third in assists (11) thus far in the season. Last year, NYCFC was a distant 6th in goals scored, and saw a summer swoon where the club struggled to find goals without Villa’s brilliance. Shradi has not only “chipped in”, he’s practically led the way for City’s attack five weeks into the season.

NYCFC Offensive Production 2018

Player Goals Assists Goals + Assists SHTS SOG GWG G/90min SC%
Player Goals Assists Goals + Assists SHTS SOG GWG G/90min SC%
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi 3 1 4 4 3 1 1 75
Maximiliano Moralez 3 1 4 11 5 2 0.6 27.3
Anton Tinnerholm 2 0 2 2 2 0 0.67 100
Jesus Medina 1 3 4 4 1 0 0.22 25
David Villa 1 1 2 13 2 1 0.53 7.7
Saad Abdul-Salaam 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0
Yangel Herrera 0 2 2 7 4 0 0 0
Ben Sweat 0 1 1 2 1 0 0 0
Stats from MLSsoccer.com

Even when Villa returns from injury, it’s pretty clear that Shradi should remain a fixture in the Starting XI, preferably over Rodney Wallace, going forward. Vieira and Reyna’s signing of Ismael is another feather in their cap when it comes to finding undervalued gems in Europe. While Vieira has a plethora of winger options to choose from — including the currently displaced fan favorite Jonathan Lewis — it’s going to be difficult, if not outright criminal, to keep Shradi’s name out of the starting lineup for the rest of this season.