The Man in Seat 9: Call Me Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - March 11: Ismael Tajouri #29 of New York City in action during the New York City FC Vs LA Galaxy regular season MLS game at Yankee Stadium on March 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Editorial (March 24, 2018) – What does one do in the City when our Boys in Blue are on the road? Find some like-minded Cityzens in one of the many pub partners in the city, grab a pint, and join your ilk in chanting at the television. For this match, The Man in Seat 9 chose a new pub partner, Reichenbach Hall for the match against the New England Revolution. The number of pub partners has grown in the last four years and Ryan’s Daughter will probably always be the home bar for NYCFC but I wanted to see how some of the lesser-known partners are fairing. Blue shirts filled the back of the room in front of the largest screen with a smattering of City kits seen around the bar. A fair showing, but not the same atmosphere as I’ve experienced in the past. There was no chanting. Disappointing.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi Impresses

NYCFC Went After Their White Whale and Came Home With a Point.

Today was a day to test the resilience of the side. Without David Villa, Rodney Wallace, Alexander Ring, and Ronald Matarrita, the Boys in Blue traveled into Gillette Stadium, the citadel of the New England Revolution, to see how they stood up against a team with a new coach, a taste for winning at home, and a fake field.

NYCFC started flat and a bit nervous, appearing not really certain as to how they would hold together when tested. New England capitalized off of that lack of cohesiveness in the 11th minute with a goal that caught Sean Johnson just a bit too far forward and Alexander Callens flat-footed at the top of the arc. Boom! Down early on the road. But if there is one thing that Patrick Vieira has brought to this club is that you play the system no matter what the scoreboard says. Trust in the system and the system will produce results. And so the team settled down and worked the system. And work it they did. Sean Johnson alone attempted 81 passes, completing 61. The Man in Seat 9 is not certain, but that is probably one of the highest pass stats for a keeper in MLS.

After the initial goal, the midfield and defense solidified but NYCFC got strangled in their own half. The Revs used a very effective aggressive high press, while Vieira held to his belief in playing out of the back and holding possession until New England would run out of gas. Both strategies worked with neither team taking all three points. Seventy-four percent is a lot of possession but it doesn’t do you very well if it’s all in your half of the pitch.

That being said, there was a lot to be impressed by this point on the road. New England was playing in good form and looked energized to prove what they could do to their new coach, Brad Friedel. They have won 8 out of their last 9 at home. They were aggressive and challenged hard. NYCFC, as stated above, was playing without those who anchor our attack. Even with that impediment, the team was solid. Not pretty, but they got the job done. Good teams find a way to win. And NYCFC found a way to manufacture the goals needed to stay even. The first goal was a beautifully built team goal starting in the defense and ending with a perfect finish from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. The second came from a wonderfully threaded pass from Yangel Herrera through to Ismael, who touched, turned, and rippled the back netting. In two starts, Tajouri-Shradi has scored three times on three shots. Hello MLS, allow me to introduce myself. Call me Ismael.

Sean Johnson, who has seen a thing or two, thinks that Ismael is the real deal. “I think we’re just scratching the surface of what he has, his potential as a player,” Johnson said. “He works really hard every single day. All of the guys notice that and it shows when he goes out on the field and he’s producing at the moment, which is huge for us.”

The night before the match, PV warned that this would be one of the toughest assignments the team would face this season. The team stepped up and again found their resolve. For the second time in two games, NYCFC used new faces to get results. We may no longer be perfect, but we are still not beaten. And we have depth.

The Good:
  • Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
  • Solid performance, albeit sloppy and disorganized, but given the composition of the team, a stout side. New England was playing at what I think is the top of their game. Proving themselves to the new coach, taking on NYCFC, and being at home.
  • Composed and confident playing out of the back.
  • Sean Johnson.
  • Even wounded we are a force. We have depth.
The Bad:
  • Our attack and passing forward from the midfield.
  • The refs, again. 
  • Patrick Vieira’s words about Medina should be heeded. He’s good and will be great, but he’s got a lot of growing to do.
  • The defense misses too many balls inside the eighteen.
  • There are fractures that teams are not exploiting.
  • The woodwork is becoming one of our best defensive backs.
The Ugly:
  • The turf. I can’t believe we still allow Field Turf at a professional level.
  • New England trying to move the corner flag out of the way for a corner kick. No, you can’t do that, but nice try.
  • Moveable corner flags.
One Ring to Rule Them All, Warnings on the Horizon, And On The Proper Path

Alexander Ring injured himself during training with the Finland national team this past week. It looks like he will be out for three to four weeks. Today, he was missed, but at least we proved we could hold the middle with our depth.

David Villa missed his second match due to a calf strain. As I type those words my stomach tenses a bit as I have flashbacks to Lampard and the calf strain that never healed. I hope this isn’t the age catching up to our captain in the form of those small muscle failures that can sideline a player for most of the season. If this is going to be his last year, I want him to go out in full form.

And finally, every now and again, something happens that will renew my faith in the state of soccer in this country. One of those things happened this week when the club signed their second homegrown player, Joe Scally, from the academy system. Scally is fifteen. Yes, you read that right, fifteen. And now a professional soccer player. My favorite part of the announcement is the sentence where the team is letting us know that he will “finish out the remainder of the school year before commencing full-time training this summer.” This story makes the Man in Seat 9’s heart sing. Homegrown players and a robust academy system are vital to the health of soccer in this country. Well done.

Pub Partner Review

Reichenbach Hall: An Official NYCFC Pub Partner
Atmosphere: German. Um, hello? Large, communal tables. Year-round Octoberfest.
Beer: All German. All on tap. Good but pricey.
Food: Heavy German standards. A bit pricey for match fare.
Soccer Vibe:
More touristy than Football. Great place to watch the World Cup. Especially when Germany is playing.
Grade: C

Prost!

The Man in Seat 9

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