Taty Castellanos celebrates his fourth goal. (John Jones-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
At the kickoff of New York City FC’s home game against Real Salt Lake game on Sunday, last year’s MLS Golden Boot winner was nowhere to be found on the MLS scoring list.
There was a pretty good reason. Valentin “Taty” Castellanos hadn’t found the net over his team’s opening five matches this season.
By the time referee Ismail Elfath blew the final whistle of NYCFC’s 6-0 thrashing of RSL at around 3 p.m., Castellanos found himself tied for second place, only one goal behind the league leaders (five players are tied for first).
That’s what a virtuoso performance of four goals will do for one’s ranking in a young season as the Argentine went from one extreme to another.
Castellanos became only the 14th player in the league’s 27-year history to record that many goals in a match.
He became the first NYCFC player to score four goals in a game.
“Really happy for that achievement,” he said. “I am happy to be in the history books for NYCFC.”
So, what was the different between Sunday and the opening five matches of the season?
“When you don’t have the energy to be one step ahead it’s hard to be on the front foot,” head coach Ronny Deila said. “He has played almost every minute and has done a lot of traveling. All this over time get to be a lot. He scores a lot in training, and I’m not surprised to see him score four goals, he is a top top player.”
There were so much great expectations of NYCFC. As defending MLS Cup champions, they are expected to win again, or at least to be one of the top teams in the league.
Ditto for Castellanos, allow there have been a boatload of rumors that he will be transferred to a club in Europe or South America when the summer transfer window opens in a couple of months.
Last year the 23-year-old forward scored a league-high 19 goals. So, naturally, many observers expected Castellanos to pull off a repeat performance. Then he went dry in his first five matches. Like many goal-scorers, Castellanos can be streaky. He was last year.
“I’m very happy for him,” midfielder Alfredo Morales said. “He works so hard every single day, and you have to appreciate a striker like this. He gives everything and his pressure is essential for us, especially with Maxi [Moralez] or Santi [Rodriguez] or whoever plays the number 10. … He has to go for the Golden Boot again.
“We try to push him and to support him each and every day and do our best to make him better,” midfielder Alfredo Morales said. “He does everything to make us better as a team and individually, so I like to be with him, he’s a good teammate.”
And a happy one.
“Very happy,” Castellanos said. “Coming off the elimination from the Concacaf Champions League we were a little hurt but now we have to look forward to the MLS, I’m very happy for the four goals. This victory gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
Castellanos started to do his damage in the ninth minute.
After he scored, the striker pulled up his NYCFC jersey to honor a friend back home.
“The celebration was in honor of a close family friend from Mendoza, Argentina who recently passed away,” Castellanos said. “I know that person is looking over us and played a factor in my performance.”
Castellanos added penalty kicks in the 40th and 57th minutes and closed out the scoring in the 80th minute.
“We feel that the game was won in the first 25 minutes,” he said. “It was all about pressuring their backline and then in the second half the game opened for us, and the chances kept coming.”
FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis has written a new book, ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. You can learn more about it or purchase it here: