Taty Castellanos says goodbye to the NYCFC fans at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

He might not have scored in what might have been his final game with New York City FC on Saturday night.

But that did not deter the MLS team’s supporters from showing their love for Taty Castellanos.

When the Argentine striker came off the field in the 61st minute of City’s 2-0 win over Inter Miami CF, the Yankee Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation.

There has been intense speculation over the past week that Saturday’s home encounter would be Castellanos’ final match wearing an NYCFC uniform. Reports out of Europe have claimed that Manchester City, NYCFC’s parent club, will acquire the 23-year-old forward and loan him to Girona in Spain’s La Liga.

An official announcement on his transfer could come as early as Monday.

“The reception is what he’s done for the team this season,” NYCFC interim head coach Nick Cushing said. “This is a crowd favorite. So when you take him off in the game, the crowd, they’re going to show him appreciation because they love him.

“He deserves the [plaudits] for the way that he plays the game. And if this was his last game, I’m really proud of our fans that they gave him a real a real ovation when he came off because he’ll remember that.”

Cushing wouldn’t speculate on whether this was Castellanos’ City finale, but the coach certainly heaped much praise on his striker.

“He’s a killer in the box, finishing goals,” he said.

Indeed, he is.

The 23-year-old Castellanos has been nothing but gold for City the past two seasons.

He struck for a league-best 19 goals in 2021, earning him the MLS Golden Boot.

Entering the weekend, the 5-10, 154-lb. Castellanos boasted a league-high 13 goals for the reigning MLS Cup champions.

“I think his legacy is, of course, goals,” Cushing said. “I think he is the best goal scorer in the MLS. I think he has proven that, last year with the Golden Boot and this year by pushing top goal scorer charts again. I think his passion and his drive and his hunger to work for the team, his hunger and desire to be in the box and to be a killer in the box is there. I think people fall in love with him because he plays with his heart and his passion and he plays for New York. I think people will always remember that whether he is here or in another part of the world, he is Taty Castellanos and he is New York.”

Castellanos had a goal called back because he was offside by a smigden.

“He is so ruthless in the box that when he makes a run, most of the time players feed the ball for him, that’s why he has so many goals because he’s a killer in the box,” Cushhing said. “He’s a good finisher but also because of the quality he has around him, the likes or Maxi Moralez, Santiago Rodriguez, Talles Magno, Gabriel Periera, Thiago Andrade. They know when we put these players around him and he makes runs, sometimes they try and make it happen, it’s not always going to happen but we encourage them to continue to do it and the more they do it, the more he gets into goal scoring positions, and that’s why he scored tonight but unfortunately it was just marginally offside and ruled offside but he makes the runs and they try and find him.”

Team captain and goalkeeper Sean Johnson knew what NYCFC have and had in Castellanos.

“I think he has meant so much to the club,” he said. “Over the years, not just with the golden boot, but everything he’s given, his energy every single game and training session. He has given the team life, and his performances have spoken for themselves. He is a quality player. I am sure he is going to crush it wherever he is next, so I think it is important for us to take some time to recognize all the things he has done for the club. He will always be a part of the family here, and I am happy for him. He is always in shape while he is here, so we wish him all the best.”