Valentin Castellanos scored goals in the 37th and 58th minutes for NYCFC Sunday evening at Yankee Stadium and it was good enough for his team to secure a 2-2 draw with Atlanta. He says there is no pressure to score and once again become the MLS leading goal scorer.
“Taty” is once again vying to defend his 2021 “Golden Boot” Award” after his 19th career two-goal game that put NYCFC back in first place of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Again, the goals are important but wins or a draw are an emphasis.
Regardless, Castellanos is a catalyst for the NYCFC offense and during their 2021 MLS championship run much of the scoring revolved around one of the outstanding strikers in the league. He scores goals in bunches and Sunday the Golden Boot went to work.
Two goals put Castellanos into a share of the MLS scoring lead, the second briefly gave his team an advantage with a right-footed shot into the middle of the net off a pass from Magno. This was so typical of the goals he scored last year at Yankee Stadium, though, now there is momentum after NYCFC came out of their international break with a new interim coach and lacking some scoring punch.
And that “Golden Boot” Award is not an emphasis. There is no pressure to lead the league in goals for a second consecutive year. The emphasis is scoring and getting the win, a catalyst to another championship run.
“I don’t feel pressure, I just have fun,” Castellanos said through a translator. “It’s what I play for. Obviously, I have a responsibility to score to help the team, but I don’t feel no sort of pressure. It came down to small details when it comes to today’s match. Atlanta drew level in a game in which we almost had won. We have to go back to the training pitch to fix those small details.”
But the small details are an integral part of NYCFC, finding room for Castellanos to use that talented foot that will make a difference. His teammates look up to “Taty” and hope he remains a part of this team with talk of international takers looking to offer a lucrative contract.
As it is, MLS rosters change because world wide leagues have the ability to raid MLS talent as the schedule progresses. Castellanos is one of the most sought after players they would love to have but you can leave that for another day.
The primary goal is for Castellanos to continue playing here and be that catalyst. He does not respond to questions about the offers. Castellanos has always said this is about the team and not leading the league in goals scored.
“I am not thinking about scoring goals to win the golden boot,” he said. “I would not even be able to do it without the team, I am happy about it, but am also happy for the team because it’s from all of our hard work.”
Put this in perspective because it certainly appears that Castellanos is a team player. It’s not about personal goals. And the priority is finishing the season with NYCFC, winning a second MLS Cup, and becoming an all-time great in the MLS.
Interim coach Nick Cushing knows the role of a striker. In the MLS, that position comes with the territory as they score in bunches or go through their tailspins. But this is Valentin Castellanos who is always the catalyst.
“He will always score,” Cushing said. “We have full faith in him. If he goes a game or two without scoring the goal is literally around the corner for him because he is really, really talented but also really, really hungry to add goals for this team and like I said, have no worries when he goes through those periods because all strikers do and the next goal is right around the corner. It doesn’t surprise me that he scored two today.”
And there could be two more next Saturday as NYCFC continues their current homestand Saturday afternoon with rival New England, another important Eastern Conference matchup.
They are all important for NYCFC. Draws are as good as wins but they are not the points they seek because the Red Bulls and Philadelphia are looking in and not going away anytime soon.
Difference, though, Valentin Castellanos seems to have that Golden Foot working again. After all, he is the catalyst of this team when all is said and done.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso “Sports With Rich ” and co-host Robert Rizzo live every Tuesday evening 10pm ET on SLG Network via YouTube also available on Spotify. Like, Comment, Subscribe: Rich Mancuso YouTube