Valentin Castellanos: “We have a lot of confidence that we can play well and with that confidence and that mentality, I’m sure that we can win.”

By Michael Lewis Editor

Sports can work in peculiar ways.

Twenty-five days after making its exit from the MLS Cup Playoffs in a wild and crazy shootout loss to Orlando City SC Nov. 21, New York City returns to the same venue to get some vindication.

The team will meet UANL Tigres in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET (FS2). The Mexican team leads, 1-0.

It is strange for any team to be eliminated from one competition, only to wait a little more than three weeks for one more shot at a brass ring in another.

“It’s never good to have a long break after this in the domestic season,” head coach Ronny Deila said during a Monday video conference call with the media. “It was a very, very exciting game, a tough game and mentally, a negative game in Orlando. So, we had a lot of time to deal with that.

“The boys have handled changes during our season. We have raised ourselves after a disappointing game, and we’ll do that again.”

Deila has been impressed with the team’s training regimen.

“It’s a big game for us,” he added. “We want to finish with a with a trophy before we go home to Christmas.”

Forward Valentin “Taty” Castellanos also was optimistic that NYCFC could turn things around. In the first leg, Eduardo Vargas scored off a rebound as the visitors recorded a 1-0 victory before 10,212 at Red Bull Arena March 11.

That was 280 days ago.

“A lot of time has gone by since our last game many, many months, and the team has changed,” he said during a Monday video conference call with the media. “We changed since the beginning of the year and towards the end of the year we’re different. We have a different team, a different mentality, a different confidence. I think we’ve gotten much better throughout the year as time has gone on.

“We have lots of players that can score and are really smart and play the right way. Tigres are a tough team, they’re very well known, but we’re also one of the best teams in the league. So, we just have to play well and score so that we can do our best and win tomorrow.”

MLS teams have experienced a long, frustrating history trying to win CCL matches in Mexico, so having this encounter at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla. couldn’t hurt NYCFC.

Though NYCFC played in Orlando earlier this year, albeit another venue during the MLS is Back Tournament, Castellanos felt it didn’t give him and his teammates a huge advantage.

“It’s complicated honestly because earlier this season we played in Orlando a few games, and those didn’t really go well for us, even though there were no fans and it was neutral for us,” he said. “The weather definitely affects us. It’s really cold in New York, and it’s warm in Orlando. We’re traveling down the same day tomorrow so that could hurt us just changing climates so quickly.

“They also don’t have it easy. They are traveling to a different country. They’re playing in a new stadium. So, I think personally that is an even game. You know it’s even on both sides. I don’t think it’s necessarily better for us. But we go in knowing that we are down one-nothing, but we have a lot of confidence that we can play well and with that confidence and that mentality, I’m sure that we can win.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at