On Sunday afternoon, New York City FC returned to Yankee Stadium and faced Real Salt Lake in their first Major League Soccer match since losing to the Seattle Sounders in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. The Pigeons looked to bounce back, and desperately needed all three points after their slow start in MLS play.
Additionally, the team was once again without Maxime Chanot and Maxi Moralez. Both were questionable the day prior, but confirmed out once the lineups were announced. As such, players like Thiago and Santiago Rodríguez had to play some of their best football, and Thiago Martins had to continue improving his play with the team.
In the end, the entire team had a fantastic performance, and destroyed RSL in a 6-0 win. All the goals were shared between Valentín Castellanos and Thiago, and Castellanos made history by becoming the first NYCFC player to score four goals in one game.
While most of the focus was on the attacking third, defensively Sean Johnson and his backline kept RSL out of goal. Johnson saved all five shots on target, and the defenders kept their mistakes to a minimum this time around. In fact, the backline seemed more comfortable and composed, which is hopefully a positive sign that the defense of the team is moving in the right direction.
Valentín Castellanos scored four and led New York City FC to a 6-0 win
Of course, the focus on the fixture was on the goals, especially with Castellanos. As mentioned, the Argentine made history by becoming the first New York City FC player to score four goals in one match. Two of the goals were from penalty kicks, one was a header from a corner kick, and the other occurred on a poor clearance by RSL.
His best goal was actually the historical fourth, for how it went in. In the 80th minute, RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath could not clear the ball out of the box, and the ball fell to Castellanos’ feet. With one touch, the forward hit the ball toward goal, and it bounced off of a RSL player, which allowed for the ball to go right over MacMath and into the back of the net. Without the deflection, the ball could have still gone past the opposing goalkeeper, but the deflection itself made saving the ball highly improbable.
Nevertheless, Castellanos scored four, and it does not matter how the goals went in. How is now back in the Golden Boot race, and in a sense, caught up on the goals in one game. His performance reminded MLS fans what he can do, and illuminated why he deserves to make the jump to Europe. And even when he does not score, he is an important contributor in the attack, for he is always on the prowl looking not just for goals, but for his teammates too.
Despite Castellanos’s slow goal scoring start to MLS, there was no doubt the goals would come. Ronny Deila even expressed this to MLSSoccer.com:
"“He scores in training all the time. And then I just know everything will come. He was really good against Seattle and I’m not very surprised today that he scored four goals. He’s a top, top player and he’s now back to being balanced mentally and physically.”"- Ronny Deila on MLSSoccer.com
Meanwhile, Thiago scored the other two goals, which led NYCFC to tie their record for the most goals in a match. The team almost got a record-breaking seventh after a goal from Héber, but it was disallowed after a foul on MacMath.
This win was exactly what NYCFC needed, and hopefully will increase the confidence amongst the team. Hopefully by next weekend, Chanot and Moralez will be available, especially if the injury Martins picked up in the second half is serious enough to keep him out. Undoubtedly, New York City FC will be hungry for more goals, and will try to take revenge on Toronto FC after that controversial loss from just a few weeks ago.