New York City FC enjoyed a midweek victory against Atlanta United thanks to a strike from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
Here are Five Points from a big win on Wednesday...
Tajouri-Shradi Comes Up Big
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has made no secret of his desire to start more games, and the Libyan international strengthened his case on Wednesday night with another game-winning goal. The 27-year-old has now scored four goals in his last four games, and that run has helped New York City FC to an extra six points.
Tajouri-Shradi also deserves credit for sensing an opportunity and taking it. If you remember in our Keys to the Match from earlier this week we talked about counter-attacking and making sure runners get ahead of Taty Castellanos.
If you watch below, Tajouri-Shradi does just that, after a turnover by Atlanta in their own half.
From there he shows composure to slot the ball home and help his team to a big win. The former Austria Wien player is a man in form right now, and the Boys in Blue are benefitting from that considerably.
Imagine for a moment your first day at work, or that first big presentation – you were probably a little bit nervous, right?
That was not Tayvon Gray’s experience on Wednesday. The right-back personified self-confidence when speaking to reporters after the game, and he had every right to feel pleased with his performance.
Gray is currently behind arguably the best right-back in Major League Soccer in Anton Tinnerholm, but that didn’t stop him impressing against Atlanta United.
“I showed that I could step up and that I’m ready,” Gray said. “I feel like I could play both sides [offense and defense] so it’s not an issue [trying to match Anton Tinnerholm].”
He was defensively sound, and more than comfortable advancing the ball and driving at Atlanta. Those runs helped earn opportunities for NYCFC in the final third, and his performance did not go unnoticed by Ronny Deila.
It also underpins a point Deila has made consistently; NYCFC has depth and competition for places this season.
A talented youngster like Gray pushing to get into the starting XI will only benefit Tinnerholm. It also lets Deila know he has a capable player that can step in when needed, which will be crucial as the season goes on.
On a night when New York City FC named the youngest starting XI in club history at an average age of just 23.4 years-old, it was nice to see an old head show his quality.
Maxi Moralez did not start the game against Atlanta United, but when he came on, he reminded everyone why he is so highly thought of. The playmaker didn’t charge around the field or try to raise the tempo, rather he grabbed hold of things and controlled the pace.
When the ball came, Moralez took it for a walk and made sure NYCFC didn’t give up possession. He forced Atlanta’s backline to come deep and break their line to engage with him, all while playing some nice passes down the side of the defence to stretch them.
Then, in injury time, with the visitors pushing hard for an equalizer, he showed his experience one last time by ignoring a pass and moving away from goal so he could entice an opposition player into fouling him.
Moralez is rightly known for his creative ability and intelligence, but we saw that manifest in a slightly different, but still influential way, on Wednesday night. Vamos Maxi.
Sands Shows Composure
The game against Atlanta was about fine margins – as evidenced by the result.
NYCFC’s desire to play high-up the field meant the back line could not afford mistakes in possession and James Sands made sure he did just that.
Atlanta’s decision to drop their line of engagement put an onus on NYCFC’s center-backs to lead with the ball, and we saw numerous instances of Sands bringing the ball out of defence and driving into open space.
What was equally as impressive was how calm he remained, even deep inside Atlanta’s half.
It would be very easy for Sands to force a pass or take a needless risk once he crosses the half-way line, but he showed good decision making by trying to keep the ball.
The 20-year-old has been vocal about wanting to improve his range of passing this season, and we also saw evidence of that.
His keenness to switch the play and also play it forward gives NYCFC another outlet to create chances.
On a defensive end, Sands had a difficult test in the form of Ezequiel Barco. The diminutive playmaker is quick and tricky and was pushed further up in the second half to try and give Atlanta an out ball, which forced NYCFC to go man for man at times.
It was vital Sands measured his aggression when engaging with Barco, and he did just that, helping NYCFC to a big win in the process.
The Kids Are Alright
Wednesday night represented a proud moment for NYCFC as three academy players were named to the starting XI for the first time in club history.
Andres Jasson, Tayvon Gray and James Sands all played a key role in helping the Boys in Blue secure three points, and their emergence into the first-team is a testament to not only their hard work, but the hard work of the club’s academy staff and first-team coaches.
The trio have combined for a total of 1302 minutes in MLS this season, highlighting their importance to the team, and Ronny Deila’s willingness to give young players an opportunity in the first-team if they work hard enough.
Next up for New York City FC is a meeting with D.C. United at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, June 27 with kickoff scheduled for 6:00PM ET (YES Network/NYCFC.com/Radio).