On Saturday, Valentín Castellanos suited up in what is expected to be his final game in front of the fans, and final with New York City FC. The Pigeons were home in the Bronx, and faced Inter Miami CF for the first time this season.
Not only did the Pigeons want to extend their winning streak to four games, and the unbeaten streak to six, but everyone wanted to see Castellanos go out in style. Before the match, Ian Joy of the YES Network said the Argentine is expected to move to Girona Futbol Club, S.A.D. after he plays against Miami, and it will be a loan move.
Nonetheless, there was a fixture to be played, and as much as NYCFC wanted to win for their star player, they had to win for the team as a whole. The race for first place in the Eastern Conference is tight, and the pressure, like always, was on.
Castellanos did get to celebrate in style, for the Bronx side beat Miami, 2-0, with goals in both halves. The team put on a solid performance, and the strong showing from Sean Johnson, who had four saves, kept Miami off of the score sheet.
New York City FC said goodbye to Taty Castellanos in 2-0 win over Miami
It was clear there was some urgency by New York City FC to get a win. Admittedly, the team always wants to get all three points, but there was something in the air. Everyone knew Castellanos would finally achieve his dream of going to Europe, and his teammates wanted him to go out in style.
But they also tried to be smart with their play, and let Miami have periods of possession. As such, this mix of urgency, but not over-doing it, paid off. Miami led NYCFC in possession, but the well-organized defense reduced the opportunities form the Florida team, especially in the second half.
The night’s focus might have been on Castellanos, but the other story was that Maxi Moralez finally got his first goal of the season. In the 12th minute, Miami gave up the possession, and Santiago Rodríguez, as he has done all season, was there and recovered the ball for NYCFC. He saw Moralez making a run, and sent the ball toward him. The Argentine midfielder brought the ball toward the end-line and moved slightly away from goal, and on an insane angle, put the ball into the back of the net. It took some time, but finally Moralez has a goal this season.
Meanwhile, Castellanos almost had his goal, but unfortunately it was called offside. On some replays, it looked like he could have been onside, but alas, it was called back. Unfortunately, he did not score in his final home match. Still, his last goal for NYCFC will officially be the goal against the New York Red Bulls, which is not a bad way to go out at all.
Yet, he was able to play at Yankee Stadium one last time, and got his final curtain call when Nick Cushing substituted him off in the 61st. Likely he would have played a little longer if the score had a larger buffer, but changes were needed. Hence, for one final time, Castellanos left the pitch, and the emotion and cheers from the fans told the story of what he means to NYCFC.
That change was needed though, for it was the substitute Héber who scored the second goal in the 75th minute. Malte Amundsen passed the ball toward goal, and the Brazilian was in the right place at the right time. He put the team up 2-0, and secured the three points for NYCFC. Noticeably, the striker honored his departing teammate by copying his goal-scoring celebration.
Based on the way his teammates were acting, and also NYCFC’s social media, there was no question that Castellanos was leaving, and played in his final match. After the final whistle, the hugs and emotion said it all. Many fans did not leave right away too in order to celebrate their hero, and luckily his story ended on a high note.
It does not mean Castellanos will never return. He has many years ahead of him, and like any young player that leaves a club, there is always the opportunity to return down the line. Nevertheless, New York City FC will surely miss him, and hopefully he finds success in Spain.