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2024 NYCFC Player Preview: Strahinja Tanasijević

Look for the newly-signed 26-year-old defender to rotate into the NYCFC backline when the need arises in 2024.

Defender Strahinja Tanasijević signed with NYCFC before the start of the 2024 season | Courtresy
Name: Strahinja Tanasijević
Position: Central Defender, Right-Back
Age: 26
Key Stat: 7 – the number of FK Spartak Subotica's clean sheets during the 2023-2024 Serbian SuperLiga season: Tanasijević started and played 90 minutes in all seven of Spartak’s clean sheets

Strahinja Tanasijević arrives at New York City FC as the club’s one new defender added (so far) during a busy winter transfer window. The 26-year-old is an experienced veteran arriving as support for first-choice center back pairing Birk Risa and Thiago Martins, someone who NYCFC will be looking to rotate in along the back line, possibly also at right back, whenever a need arises.

Where he’s from

NYCFC will be the seventh club for Tanasijević since making his professional debut in October 2017. He has featured for four different first-division sides in Serbia, and has spent time with Chievo Verona in Italy and Paris FC in France. While he was a member of those bigger-name Italian and French clubs, he hardly featured for their Senior Teams. 

Across two seasons with Chievo Verona, Tanasijević made just two appearances for the first team, both coming in 2018. One was in Serie A—in which he came on as a sub and got two yellow cards and a sending off within 17 minutes—and one in the Coppa Italia. Tanasijević didn’t break through in France either, where he only made one appearance for Paris FC, playing 55 minutes in a 8-0 away loss to Nantes FC in the Coupe de la Ligue in October 2019. 

The bulk of Tanasijević’s experience has been in Serbia where he’s played parts of six seasons in the SuperLiga. Joining FK Čukarički in Serbia seemed to solidify his career after those unsuccessful trips to Italy and France.

In February 2021 Tanasijević debuted for the Belgrade club and started in their final 11 fixtures of the SuperLiga season, a stretch in which the club reeled off nine wins, one draw, and one loss. During that time, Tanasijević scored his first pro goal in a top division, against his eventual club Spartak Subotica. His Čukarički squad was +1.14 in goal differential per 90 minutes with Tanasijević on the pitch, ending the season in 3rd in the SuperLiga table and earning a spot in the second round of qualifying for the 2021-2022 UEFA Europa Conference League. 

Since that great run of form late in 2021, the defender’s individual and club success has been a bit up and down. He didn’t turn into a nailed-on starter for Čukarički next season, making 15 starts but playing in only 41% of the club’s available SuperLiga minutes that season. Tanasijević then changed clubs within Serbia, moving to FK Mladost Novi Sad for the 2022-2023 season, but was only there for one unsuccessful stint before landing at Spartak Subotica, the club he’s leaving to join NYCFC. 

Spartak Subotica provided Tanasijević with more of a consistent platform, as he’s played 83% of the team’s available SuperLiga minutes during the ongoing 2023-2024 season, going 90 minutes in all seven of the club’s second-most-in-the-league clean sheets.

What he brings to NYCFC

Nick Cushing says Tanasijević fits “the profile of defender that I really wanted to add to our group,” while describing the Serb as an aggressive defender with good speed who is comfortable playing in a high defensive line.

When announcing the signing of Tanasijević, NYCFC’s official release referred to him as a versatile player who can also function as a right back. His experience on the right of a defense is limited, with Transfermarkt listing Tanasijević as having made two career first-tier appearances as a right back, with each of those coming during his cameos in cup competitions in Italy and France back before he returned to Serbia. 

At Spartak Subotica he reportedly played center back as part of a three-back system, something he might be asked to do in New York City given Cushing’s occasional formation fluctuations between four- and three-at-the-back defenses. 

Despite his recent run as a consistent part of Spartak Subotica’s Starting XIs, Tanasijević is used to being a rotational member of a defense, which is the role he seems destined to hold at NYCFC. 

Nick Cushing’s comments on his new defensive signing also included the manager explicitly saying Tanasijević gives his squad “more depth and more competition for places along the back line,” and that’s how the player should be viewed heading into 2024: Initially a depth piece that could see his role and minutes expand, if injuries arrive or form dips elsewhere in the NYCFC defense. 

2024 expectations for Strahinja Tanasijević

Tanasijević is following in the footsteps of third-choice NYCFC center backs like Tony Alfaro, Vuk Latinovich, and Sebastien Ibeagha, all players who spent many matches waiting on the substitutes’s bench, and all players who did see meaningful minutes during parts of their seasons with NYCFC. 

The defender doesn’t seem likely to be too far off the MLS pace given his years of professional experience, including those pit stops in the bigger, competitive soccer environments of Italy and France. He’ll likely start out as an insurance policy for Birk Risa and Thiago Martins in central defense, or maybe as cover if Tayvon Gray and Mitja Ilenič both end up unavailable at right-back.

MLS seasons are long, contain more matches than ever thanks to Leagues Cup and the US Open Cup, with more travel and extreme weather (think: summer heat) than your average campaign in Europe or elsewhere, so Tanasijević is almost certain to play an important part in how the 2024 NYCFC season unfolds.