Coming off a season where injuries curtailed his progress with New York City FC, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is entering his third campaign in the Bronx with a positive approach, a new multiyear contract, a third head coach and the desire to one day play at home for his country.
“The whole club showed me love since I arrived,” Tajouri-Shradi said of NYCFC. “Since I arrived here, I said this will be my home, since my first game at Yankee Stadium. And I remember my first goal with the fans going crazy – a goal to remember for me.”
The Libyan international tallied the game-winner in a 2-0 win over Orlando City SC – the third match of the 2018 season.
Patrick Vieira was the manager for City that year until he departed for Ligue 1 and OGC Nice. Vieira’s replacement, Dome Torrent directed the second half of the season and helped steer NYCFC to its first Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2019.
Despite the success, Torrent and the club mutually agreed to a split. Enter City’s fourth coach in six seasons: Ronny Deila. Three preseasons for Tajouri-Shradi under three different head coaches.
“Every coach has his own way,” said the 25-year old who inked a new deal on Jan. 16. “New York City brings in coaches that are good for the players we have.”
Tajouri-Shradi said the team is working hard to understand the methods of the new coach ahead of its first Concacaf Champions League match in San Carlos, Costa Rica Feb. 20.
“We always want to play nice football so the supporters will love it.” Shradi said. “Ronny loves to have the ball. He is a coach that wants us to give 100% at training – every day. It’s been three weeks and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Under Vieira, Shradi was placed primarily in a wide attacking role, resulting in 12 goals and one assist on 17 shots on target.
With Torrent, Shradi was introduced to an inverted wing in the half spaces and his impact on the game was neutralized until he gained a comfort level with the task. That experience coupled with his sustained one-versus-one mentality could serve Shradi well under Deila.
“One-v-one, I love to do this in every game and I wish to do it as many times as we can. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and Ronny knows that,” Tajouri-Shradi said.
But Tajouri-Shradj said flank play will not be exclusive territory for his contributions.
“I will be more wide, but it depends on how the game is and which system we play,” he said. “Sometimes I will be wide. Sometimes I will be inside. I can’t say I will always be wide. That is not correct.”
In addition to his adjustment to Torrent’s system, Tajouri-Shradi was shelved on 13 occasions due to an ankle injury the club presumed would need a surgical procedure to repair. A platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment prevented surgery and saved his season.
Tajouri-Shradi was limited to six goals plus two assist in 20 appearances last year.
“The most important thing is to be healthy,” Shradi said. “And for me, No. 1 is to communicate with my family every day.”
Shradi’s parents, brothers and sisters currently reside in Egypt. He speaks to each of them at a scheduled time each day.
Born in Switzerland to Libyan parents, Shradi moved to Austria when he was nine. He spent the first seven years as a professional in Vienna, which had a population of 1.8 million, and Altach, population 6,000, before moving to a city of more than 8 million.
“I thought about how it would be in a different city, a different life far from my home and my family,” Tajouri-Shradi said.
And he yearns to add to his four caps for Libya’s national team and to aid in the country’s quest for African Nations Cup qualification. Libya has failed to qualify since a civil war that has prevented the North African nation from playing a home match since 2013.
“It would change a lot of things, and I’m sure if we had played the last few important games at home in Libya last year, we would go to Africa’s Cup,” Tajouri-Shradi said. “If it’s the most important game and you play in front of 70- or 80,000 fans in Libya, it’s another energy.”
He shares his concerns and aspirations on a weekly basis with compatriot Muhammed El-Munir, who plays at the back for Los Angeles FC.
Shradi and El-Munir are the only Libyan players in Major League Soccer.
“I’ve known him for a few years and he’s a very good friend of mine, like a brother,” Tajouri-Shradi said. “I’m happy to have him here and we both want to make Libya proud.”
A fan-favorite in the Bronx, Tajouri-Shradi believes 2020 will bring attractive results personally and for the squad.
“It was the best choice I could make to come here and develop myself,” he said. “The supporters are going to love the football. It’s my third season here and I’m not done yet.”