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Hot Take: Give the rumor mill a break

NYCFC’s historic-ish win at Red Bull Arena could prove to be one of the most important games this season, but it was overshadowed by transfer chatter

Twenty-two men chased a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, NYCFC won.
Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy

Welcome to the latest edition of Hot Take, in which a Hudson River Blue contributor takes a highly subjective stand on a topic and gives you their deeply biased opinion.

As you likely heard by now, Taty Castellanos is heavily rumored to be leaving NYCFC shortly. It has felt as though whispers of “is this his final game for the club?” have surrounded every match he’s played for NYCFC since the MLS Cup Final. The speculation is now at fever pitch, no doubt fueled by the player himself telling TUDN’s Michele Giannone that his future could be decided within days of NYCFC’s win against New England, and more recently Fabrizio Romano tweeting that he is expected to join La Liga side Girona.

His match-winning finish in the Hudson River Derby was vintage, and historic: It was his 50th goal in MLS regular season play with the club, and his fifth Hudson River Derby goal, making him NYC’s joint-top derby scorer alongside David Villa. Frustratingly, the derby-winning accomplishments of Taty and his teammates are getting a bit overshadowed.

Instead, there’s been a collective attempt at performing an American soccer version of #HugWatch, Major League Baseball’s trade deadline tradition of presuming any players in the majors or minors receiving hugs and handshakes from their teammates on the bench means they’ve been traded. Let’s run through some of the notable “this was clearly his last match” chatter: He was substituted early, which maybe meant something meaningful, or maybe was just a precaution due to pain; he gave Nick Cushing and sporting director David Lee big hugs after the match; he saluted the supporters and was one of the last off the pitch; and he gave off Patrick Vieira vibes, whatever those are.

It very well may have been his final match with NYCFC. It would be a fitting way to go out, and there are lots of signs present that he may have known in advance that that was his final run out in MLS. It had been relatively quiet in terms of fresh Taty transfer rumors, though that appears to have now changed, with reports he’s set to be moved within City Football Group by joining the recently-promoted-to-La Liga Girona. Regardless of what happens with Taty in the days ahead, the focus coming out of this Hudson River Derby should have been more on what NYCFC just accomplished, but was sacrificed in favor of even more speculation about a transfer saga that’s been unfolding in slow motion for something like 16 months.

Going into Red Bull Arena and posting a commanding, relatively comfortable, relatively stress- and drama-free 1-0 win to cap off a nine-point week represents a major righting of the ship after a rough start to the Nick Cushing era. It’s a rare feat, too: Just the club’s second-ever win as the away team in Harrison. It was the first time the Red Bulls have lost at home to a defending MLS Cup champion since 2005, a period in which they went 10-5-0 W-D-L in 15 home matches in regular season and playoff action against holders of the trophy they’ve still never won in their 27 seasons. All three wins in this standout week should be viewed as a flag planted that the club can still get big results, with and even without their star striker.

It was a celebratory day in New Jersey for the blue side both on and off the pitch. The supporters section saw none of the issues that marred the Open Cup defeat on June 22nd and led to month-long sanctions and a cut to the day’s away ticket allotment. The trip to Harrison has long been a dispiriting one, but the vibes among the supporters were good for the latest Derby meeting. There were ample reminders of NYC’s MLS Cup triumph, including a well-coordinated shoutout to the “STAR!” above the NYCFC badge during the Star-Spangled Banner (see what they did there?), and an excellent and extremely authentic depiction of Red Bull-related Google search results.

I think there was plenty more for people to unpack from what went down on the pitch during Sunday’s win. I understand why there’s such focus paid to Taty’s situation: That the team’s leading scorer may be destined to leave for foreign shores at any moment is undeniably a development worth monitoring, covering, discussing, etc. None of this is Taty’s fault, either, since he clearly is ready for the challenge a new club presumably in Europe will represent, and it’s partly out of his hands in terms of when his sale or loan or whatever it may be gets finalized.

But it would be nice to see some energy directed at how tactically wrong Red Bull manager Gerhard Struber was when he claimed NYCFC’s center backs were a weak spot he wanted to exploit due to their “lack of mobility.” Or maybe mentioning how the only obvious fan incident that occurred came after Taty scored the winning goal and was summarily hit with a projectile hurled from the South Ward.

While the wait goes on for whatever announcement there may be around Taty’s future, NYCFC seem to have collectively announced that they’re getting back to their best following the post-Ronny Deila departure slump. They made that announcement extra loud and clear at their No 1 rival’s home on Sunday, and it would be nice to spend some more time talking about that, rather than tuning in for another installment of As the Taty Transfer Turns.