Taking the field for the second of three games in an eight-day stretch, New York City FC coach Ronny Deila had no qualms about rotating his squad for Wednesday’s match against Atlanta United FC.
Five players who started Saturday’s loss to New England were left out of the 11 on Wednesday, with three homegrown players and zero designated players on the pitch for opening kickoff.
Fortunately for NYCFC, Deila found room for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
Scoring for the fourth straight game despite only two starts in that stretch, Tajouri-Shradi put NYCFC ahead in the 69th minute with a smooth finish in the box, the lone goal to beat Atlanta in a tough mid-week test.
NYCFC (4-2-3, 14 points) won at Red Bull Arena, its secondary home in 2021, for the first time this season, improving to 2-1-2 overall between RBA and Yankee Stadium. NYCFC returns to RBA on Saturday against D.C. United to close its busy week.
With the congested schedule, Deila was open about the need to rotate during his pre-match news conference on Tuesday. Tayvon Gray, the first Bronx native to join NYCFC, made the first start of his career, while fellow homegrown Andres Jasson got a look in attack with Maxi Moralez on the bench. Nicolás Acevedo was back in the 11 after a suspension, as was Gudi Thorarinsson, giving Anton Tinnerholm a break at left back.
But most notably, Tajouri-Shradi earned the start in place of a few young newcomers on the wing, such as Talles Magno and Thiago Andrade, and he took full advantage when the opportunity came. Keaton Parks intercepted an Atlanta pass in the attacking half, finding Valentín Castellanos in the final third. Castellanos delivered a perfect pass through the legs of an Atlanta defender and into the feet of Tajouri-Shradi, who touched the pass onto his left foot to get his shot around Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan and into the net.