Taider HOU

Taïder proving he’s the full package

Algerian international has two goals and an assist to start the season

Since no one has already pointed it out, we will: Impact midfielder Saphir Taïder is officially on pace to break Josef Martinez’s goalscoring record in the MLS regular season.

That’s right. With two goals in two games, the Algerian international is now on pace for 34 goals, which would put him three goals above the record.

Now that we have your attention, we’ll admit that it would be an extremely impressive feat for Taïder to break that record. More seriously, for someone who was dubbed a “defensive midfielder” when he joined the Impact before the 2018 season, he sure has a knack for finding the back of the net, especially after he’s scored in back-to-back games to open the campaign.

“It’s like chocolate. When you eat some, you always want more,” said midfielder Saphir Taïder. “When you score, you want to continue scoring as much as possible. But it isn’t something that’s on my mind; I prefer setting my teammates up, but if I have an opportunity, I obviously won’t hold back.”

In Houston, Taïder managed to get on the end of a delightful cross into the box from fellow midfielder Micheal Azira, volleying the ball with his right foot into the bottom corner, just past goalkeeper Joe Willis’ outstretched fingers. It’s the type of finish you’d usually see from a seasoned striker, and not a number eight.

“I think Saphir is a midfielder who can be very decisive in the final third,” explained head coach Rémi Garde. “That’s a great asset to have as a midfield player. At the moment, he’s confident in that zone, and it’s definitely showed in the past two games.”

Respecting responsibilities

Despite his offensive success, what’s most impressive about the former Bologna FC player’s game is that he continues to fulfill his main responsibilities in midfield and in defense. As he said himself, his game consists of finding teammates in optimal positions, while being the point of transition between the team’s offensive and defensive units, something he continues to do really well for head coach Rémi Garde.

Now, add to that the finishing touch he’s developed since joining the Bleu-blanc-noir, and you get a very complete player.

“He positions himself really well to put the ball in the back of the net,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “It’s good, because he has the quality to finish. I’m not surprised he already has two goals and an assist. His main job is to help in midfield, and I think he’s done a good job from a defensive standpoint as well. It’s great for him and great for us as well obviously.”