Valentin Castellanos is awarded his first yellow card in the 18th minute. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
One thing is certain: Sunday will not be Valentin’s day.
Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, the league’s Golden Boot winner, can’t suit up for New York City FC at the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference final of the MLS Cup Playoffs after receiving his marching orders in the 113th minute on Tuesday night.
Four minutes after boosting City into a 2-1 lead in the 109th minute at Gillette Stadium, the MLS Golden Boot received his second yellow card of the night for a bad foul. It was his second yellow of the night; his first came in the 18th minute.
NYCFC eliminated Supporters’ Shield champion New England Revolution, winning the shootout, 5-3, after playing to a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes in Foxborough, Mass.
“It’s definitely a big loss,” said Santiago Rodriguez, who tallied NYCFC’s opening goal three minutes into the match. “He’s a leader. He’s a top goal-scorer. He’s the guy that leads the attack.”
The team has the next-man-up mentality.
“But we have full confidence in the player that’s going to take his place,” he added. “We have a lot of confidence in him. We have a lot of harmony and camaraderie within the group. There’s a lot of togetherness and we know that we’re rooting for that next person up to take over his place.”
NYCFC will play at the Union in Chester, Pa. on Sunday at 3 p.m.
“Obviously the team is more important than anything else,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what makes us a strong club. That’s what has gotten us this far. We just are happy that this is the first time in club history that we’re reaching this this stage in the playoffs. We just want to bring it back home for the city, for the fans, and ourselves because we all play to live for glory. So just looking forward to continuing.”
City head coach Ronny Deila did not want to get too deep into thinking about Philly. He wanted to bask and for the team to enjoy the upset.
“This is too early for me,” he said. “It’s enough to win this game. We have to enjoy today and I’m going to start working tomorrow about the game on Sunday. We know Philadelphia. They know us. It’s been even for as long as I played them. And they’re really good football team. So that’s going to be as tough as it was today. But again, we know what we can do when we are in our best moments and hopefully, we have another one on Sunday.”