LOS ANGELES — Just after noon on Friday, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi offered his final goodbyes to the Los Angeles Football Club. With his Tesla parked on the curb in front of the entrance to the LAFC performance center on the campus of Cal State L.A., the 28-year-old forward exchanged hugs with a trio of support staff, including the club’s head of security, Paul Abodaca, who is generally among the first people within the organization to see players come and go.
This past offseason Tajouri-Shradi joined the Black & Gold from New York City in exchange for $400,000 in general allocation money. He heads out the door to the New England Revolution for the same price.
Hampered by injuries since arriving, the forward’s seven appearances in 22 matchdays offered only glimpses of why the LAFC front office acquired him, including an MLS Goal of the Year candidate at Banc of California Stadium against Sporting Kansas City. That potential was enough for New England head coach Bruce Arena to ring the phones of LAFC front office executives John Thorrington and Will Kuntz.
Trailing Danny Musovski out the door, Tajouri-Shradi became the second attacker in two days who Abodaca wished well as they departed the performance center.
A hungry and able forward who arose from the LAFC affiliate in Las Vegas, Musovski was moved to Western Conference contender Real Salt Lake for $250,000 in general allocation money on Wednesday.
Beginning with an active offseason, LAFC has positioned itself to win the Supporters’ Shield for a second time and make a run at its first MLS Cup.
LAFC (15-4-3, 48 points) will attempt to maintain its torrid regular season pace at Musovski’s new haunts, Utah’s Rio Tinto Stadium, on Saturday.
The first meeting of the year between the clubs provides LAFC a chance to win three straight conference matches away from Banc of California Stadium, and a fifth consecutive league contest.
RSL (9-7-7, 34 points) spoiled LAFC’s inaugural season with a playoff victory at Banc of California Stadium, but has lost eight of the clubs’ 10 meetings, including the previous four.
Currently occupying fifth place in the Western Conference standings, RSL also used the transfer window to add midfielder Braian Ojeda on a season-long loan from Nottingham Forest in the English Championship and free agent Bryan Oviedo via FC Copenhagen.
For LAFC, transaction news since July 7 has undoubtedly centered on its additions rather than subtractions, which included midfielder Francisco Ginella going out on loan to Uruguay’s Club Nacional.
Seismic signings Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale from Europe juiced LAFC’s social media accounts and generated media coverage around the world.
Ecuadorian midfielder Sebastian Mendez arrived without any fanfare, but he already appears to be a strong contributor in the middle of the park.
Saving its largest financial commitment for last, LAFC added Denis Bouanga for less than a $5 million fee, said Kuntz, who confirmed the Frenchman’s 4½-year Designated Player contract. The club holds an option on Bouanga’s final season in 2025.
Upon Diego Rossi’s departure to Turkey last year, LAFC’s unsettled DP slot went to an athletic 27-year-old forward who was on the front office’s radar for the past five years.
Prior to the unsuccessful acquisition of youthful Portuguese midfielder Andre Horta in 2018, Bouanga, who plays internationally for the African nation of Gabon, was considered a potential DP out of France’s second division. However Bouanga was too old to be a “Young Designated Player,” according to MLS rules, so the timing didn’t work. Yet he remained a good profile fit.
Bouanga joins Carlos Vela and Brian Rodriguez to round out the club’s allotment of designated players.
“We think he’s a natural fit,” Kuntz said. “He’s very dynamic. He’s quick. He’s explosive. He’s fast. He works hard. The French league is a very athletic league. You’ve got some incredibly fast strong center backs, so we feel good about his ability to fit in with the group and apply pressure.”
Playing with AS Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1, the top flight of French soccer, Bouanga entered his prime over the past three seasons, registering 28 goals and 16 assists in 110 appearances across all competitions, including five Europa League matches.
“What we are always looking for, and it’s difficult, is someone who can play across all three (attacking) spots,” Kuntz said. “We feel really good that Denis can give us an option no matter who he’s with in the starting lineup.
“Given where we are and the balance of our roster, what we’re trying to achieve this year and next year and beyond, getting a guy we know the floor is pretty high and you have a degree of certainty of what you’re getting was key for us.”
After a full preseason in France, Bouanga is expected to join LAFC ready to contribute to a team that is one point shy of the MLS record-setting pace they established in 2019, which was matched by Tajouri-Shradi’s new teammates with the Revolution who broke the mark last year. Bouanga will join LAFC after the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate.
Reflecting on its intense transfer window, Kuntz described LAFC’s current group as “the most versatile and deepest roster that we’ve assembled in my five years here.”
LAFC AT REAL SALT LAKE
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. PT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV/radio: UniMas/710 AM, 980 AM