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2022 Player Preview: Valentín Castellanos

Let’s make the most of the time we have left together

MLS: D.C. United at New York City FC
Go ahead and frame it.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Valentín Castellanos

Age: 23

Position: Forward

2021 League Games: 32 games, 32 starts, 2,760 minutes played

2021 Postseason: 3 games, 3 starts, 323 minutes played

What went right in 2021:

To be completely blunt, nearly everything went right for Valentín Castellanos in 2021. The fantastic footballer we’ve all come to know as “Taty” ended his 2021 campaign in MLS as the Golden Boot winner, finishing with 19 goals scored—tied with DC United’s Ola Kamara for first place. But goals scored alone do not tell the tale of how great Taty was for New York City FC. Look at this chart below that illustrates all the categories he led the league in last season:

Valentín Castellanos MLS Rankings 2021

Statistic Total / Avg MLS Ranking
Statistic Total / Avg MLS Ranking
Goals 19 1st - Tied
Goals + Assists 27 1st
xG 21.4 1st
npxG 17.4 1st
Shots Total 129 1st
Shots on Target 53 1st
Shots on Target/90 1.73 1st - Tied
Progressive Passes Received 300 1st
Fouls Committed 88 1st
https://fbref.com

All of these stats put together highlight how Taty was the most complete, dangerous, and overall menacing forward MLS had to contend with last season. Even the fact that he led the league in fouls committed illustrates just how much of a hawk he was when pressuring the opposition’s backline, looking to win balls back and get the team into a counter-attacking transition for a quick goal. Last season, Taty matured from a forward who perhaps went down a bit too easy, to a true target forward who could dish out as much as he got—or maybe even dished out even more punishment than he received.

Not only did he become an imposing target forward, Taty made great strides in becoming a playmaker as well. He wasn’t simply a poacher looking to finish off passes. He was insightful in attack, combining with Jesús Medina, Maxi Moralez, Santiago Rodríguez, and others to not only find himself a shot on goal but also to open up shots for his teammates as well. His eight assists were second only to Moralez for the club lead, and his chemistry with Medina allowed for him to have his best season for City by far, turning a post-David Villa NYCFC into one of the best attacks in the league.

Castellanos’s development from when he first joined NYCFC up until now is a testament to his hard work, commitment to his craft, and willingness to learn from City’s technical staff. His transformation from flashy winger to stout target forward has been very impressive. And all of this led to him being an absolute force for NYCFC leading to the club’s first-ever MLS Cup.

What to improve 2022:

Asking Taty to improve seems to be almost unfair after his amazing season last year, but all the same it’s not unreasonable. We have to remember that Taty is still only 23 years old, not even close to his peak as a footballer. And remember, it wasn't so long ago that Taty was in the midst of an extended scoring drought. He rebounded from that in the best way possible, but it’s important to keep in mind the Taty at the end of the season is the best version of the Taty who wears City Blue.

It’ll also be important to see if Taty grows and matures more as a leader on the pitch. Before everything clicked towards the end of last season, Taty’s play could be found wanting. He would look for the fouls too often, or he’d go for goal a little too ambitiously, and he’d opt for flair over substance. It’ll be important to see if he has truly become a more complete player, or will he revert to old habits, especially if he hits any rough patches.

But he did make those adjustments last year, and there’s little reason to doubt him in 2022: He picked up right where he left off with a brace against Santos in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League. Quite frankly, with all of the transfer rumors swirling around him now it’ll be important for him to show his consistency and continued ascent to stardom now more than ever. But it is something well within his ability to do.

What to expect in 2022:

The most important thing to watch? Which team ultimately pays City’s asking price, and when that deal will be finalized. It seems now that nothing will happen until the summer, which is good news for NYCFC. But if a sale does happen, it is unlikely that the club that seals the deal will be willing to loan him back to NYCFC for the remainder of the season. Instead, he will most likely be in camp and prepping with his new team.

That means we as NYCFC fans will have to savor every minute, every pass, and every goal we get from Taty this season. One thing is for sure, it will never be a dull moment with Taty on the pitch.

More 2022 Player Previews:

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Thiago Andrade

Alexander Callens

Maxime Chanot

Tayvon Gray

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Sean Johnson

Maxi Moralez

Keaton Parks

Santiago Rodríguez

Talles Magno

Gedion Zelalem