New York City FC beat Inter Miami CF 2-0 in the July heat on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. Maxi Moralez and Héber scored to secure all three points, however that result is an afterthought on what will be remembered as the final game Taty Castellanos played in an NYCFC jersey.
While no official announcement has been made, every sign points to Taty leaving for Girona FC in La Liga. The fans and his teammates knew exactly what is going on: The night was dedicated to Taty. Fans held banners out thanking him and gave him a standing ovation when he was subbed off for Heber in the 61st minute. Every Taty touch piqued the crowd’s interest, and his chances evoked anticipatory cheers.
It was a bittersweet night for NYCFC fans as the performance was generally one to be proud of: This was a professional 2-0 win where the defense held firm and a second goal was scored to put the game to bed. No matter what kind of performance there was though, it was always going to be about Taty.
NYCFC: 18 shots, 6 on goal, 46.1% possession, 535 passes, 88% accuracy, 8 fouls
Inter Miami CF: 10 shots, 4 on goal, 53.9% possession, 632 passes, 88% accuracy, 7 fouls
The entire game Saturday night felt like it revolved around Taty. Every fan in attendance knew what made this game so special. This was not just an end-of-July game against lowly Inter Miami, it was an opportunity to show their love one final time for a club legend.
Fans displayed their appreciation multiple times throughout the game. There was a massive cheer during introductions, supporters unfurled a banner during the game, and he received a standing ovation as he was subbed off. Speaking of that substitution, interim head coach Nick Cushing said postgame that Taty was taken off due to being a little tired from the heat.
The only thing missing from Taty’s final game for NYCFC was a goal. He put the ball in the back of the net in the 33rd minute but it was called offside. On replay, it appeared that Taty was behind the ball when it was played into him, which would make the call on the field incorrect, but VAR did not intervene. On the bright side, he notched an assist on Maxi’s goal.
After the game, Cushing did not confirm that Taty is leaving, but he did toss around some hypotheticals in order to address the reception Taty received from the crowd.
“He deserves all of that if that’s his last game, I’m proud of our fans for the ovation. He’ll remember that,” Cushing said postgame.
All in all, Taty was sent off to Spain in a great way: Three points at home and the largest crowd of the season at Yankee Stadium.
A glimpse into the future
Life will go on without Taty. While there are many concerns about goal scoring, the 2nd goal tonight that sealed all three points can help NYCFC fans sleep a little better.
Here it is:
It was a great team goal for New York City that gave fans a preview of what this team needs to do going forward. The whole team will need to step up if NYCFC are to replace his goal production. Much of that will fall to Héber, who rediscovered his goal-scoring form in his last few games. In his most recent four appearances in which he played more than ten minutes, Héber bagged five goals. If he can keep up that clinical touch, then it won’t take all that much else to keep the goal production coming from NYCFC.
His goal also re-emphasized the idea that service into the box from the wing backs is crucially important for New York City. Part of what makes Malte Amundsen so important to this team is his ability to attack and cross balls into the box. Anton Tinnerholm is the king of providing this kind of service, but Tayvon Gray is doing a fine job for now by filling in on the right side.
The natural assumption is that Héber will reclaim his spot as the No 9, but Cushing provided an alternate idea postgame.
“Héber is a ruthless number 9, but I’m sure Talles would like a go up there,” Cushing said postgame.
Talles Magno’s made a couple of starts at the striker spot last season, but since then he’s purely been a left winger with Taty and Héber filling the No 9 role. Playing Talles Magno at striker opens up this team to some interesting lineup decisions. This could lead to Gabriel Pereira or Thiago getting more opportunities to start as wingers instead of being reduced to substitute roles. Héber is still more than likely going to be the striker going forward, but look out for this when the schedule starts getting more cramped near the end of August.
Back line steadiness
For about 20-25 minutes of the second half, Miami controlled the game with possession. The good part of that for NYC was that the back line was not allowing Miami to create anything with all that possession. The defense held firm throughout that part of the game and did not allow Miami to truly threaten Sean Johnson’s net.
Cushing lauded the back line’s performance postgame.
“Tayvon is an incredible one v one defender. He’s a good young player with potential and he’s improving every week,” Cushing said. “I actually thought our two central defenders were incredible tonight. I thought by far our central defenders were our two star performers today.”
Saturday’s clean sheet makes it three in a row now for NYC. If this level of defending is sustained, then the attack can be given more time to figure life out without Taty.
At the end of the day, NYCFC got the job done and picked up three points at home against a weaker team on an emotional night. This now leads them into a tough stretch where five out of the next six games are on the road, with the only home game being a midweek game at Red Bull Arena. More of the same from a much-improved back line is going to be just as key as replacing Taty for NYC going forward.
NYCFC, Maxi Moralez 12’
NYCFC, Heber 75’
NYCFC, Alfredo Morales, foul, yellow card, 14’
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Garner, Gianni Facchini
Fourth Official: Luis Arroyo
VAR Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant VAR Referee: TJ Zablocki