Mar 17, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Orlando City midfielder Cristian Higuita (7) kicks the ball as New York City defender Rodney Wallace (23) defends during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
It took until the second half of Saturday’s match against Orlando City SC for the announced 18,584 patrons at Yankee Stadium to have their question answered – could New York City FC win without David Villa?
Villa suffered a calf injury in the 2-1 victory over the L.A. Galaxy last week and was unable to train during the week. He was replaced in the starting XI by first-year forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
The 5-foot-6 Libyan playmaker capitalized on an error at the back to open the scoring in the 62nd minute, and Sacha Kljestan, making his Orlando City debut, played a poor ball into pressure which resulted in a Maxi Moralez goal 12 minutes later.
NYCFC defeated Orlando City SC 2-0.
Tajouri-Shradi’s goal came after Lions midfielder Yoshimar Yotún delivered a difficult back pass that caught goalkeeper Joe Bendik on an in-between hop. Bendik’s attempt to clear went directly to the feet of Tajouri-Shradi, who moved the ball from his dominant left foot to his right and slotted it past the startled keeper.
“I score most of my goals with my left foot because my right foot, I must be honest is not so good,” Tajouri-Shradi said after his first goal for the club. “Today I needed the right foot and it was here – I hope more will come with the right foot.”
Tajouri-Shradi became the second player from Libya to start a match in Major League Soccer. Orlando City SC left back Mohammed El-Munir was the first when he cracked the lineup in the Lions’ opener versus D.C. United.
Tajouri-Shradi and El-Munir exchanged jerseys at the conclusion of the match.
“We took a little picture of it,” Tajouri-Shradi said. “It is great that two Libyan guys play in MLS. If some other Libyan guys want to come here we will welcome them. MLS is a great league.”
El-Munir, who has 16 caps for Libya, signed two weeks prior to Tajouri-Shradi who has yet to earn an appearance with the full national team.
Patrick Vieira has claimed throughout preseason and the beginning of the regular campaign that the transfer from Austria Vienna is a legitimate goal scorer.
“Ismail is a really good player in 1 against 1 and really good in a tight space,” Vieira said. “He’s really comfortable on the ball. You can see the way he took his goal today, really calm and composed. He’s a goal scorer.”
Moralez deserves goal scoring praise as well with his second finish in three games. At 74’ Kljestan’s pass was picked off by Saad Abdul-Salaam starting a three-player combination that Moralez buried first-time past Bendik from 15 yards out.
NYCFC has now won two straight from Orlando City but still trails the Lions over the ten-match series at 3-5-2.