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All 19 goals by Taty Castellanos, rated

Here’s our pick for the best goal by the NYCFC striker and 2021 Golden Boot winner.

He shoots, he scores | Courtesy

To be perfectly honest, we were skeptical when the soccer wonks at the Outfield published a piece back in May titled “Valentín Castellanos Is The Best Striker In MLS.” What about the stinker he “scored” on April 24? Or that pickup game-level finish on May 1? (See below.) Castellanos was lucky, and a showoff, and was allowed to take a penalty. Hardly seemed like the best.

We will gladly eat our words today: New York City FC’s Castellanos isn’t just the winner of the Golden Boot, he’s the best striker in MLS.

The analytics team here at Hudson River Blue spent some time in the Wayback Machine reviewing footage of every goal Castellanos scored, and we see why we were dubious at the start of the season. We also see how Castellanos matured into the player who shredded defenses in October and November.

Here are all 19 goals scored by Castellanos in 2021, rated.

Every goal, in chronological order

April 17, at DC United

15’ Anton Tinnerholm feeds the ball to Castellanos, who runs through a defender and slots a goal inside the far post. The goalkeeper had wandered off, probably checking his phone. Not a thing of beauty, but a deliciously ruthless start to the season. 5

April 24, vs FC Cincinatti

67’ A corner from Maxi Moralez, a flicked header from Alfredo Morales, and Castellanos lashes the ball with lethal power—and so magnificently off-target it was headed for a chicken bucket in the stands until the patella of defender Nick Hagglund redirects it into the net. Guess it counts. 1

May 1, at Philadelphia Union

65’ Poacher’s goal: A Union defender chests the ball back to goalkeeper Andre Blake but Castellanos steals it, cuts to the left, and scores with a completely unnecessary rabona. Five points from Gryffindor for showing off. 5

May 8, at Orlando City SC

77’ (penalty) Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is tripped in the box, Castellanos steps to the spot. A few stutter-steps and a foot-fake sends Pedro Gallese the wrong way, salvaging a 1-1 draw. 8

July 25, vs Orlando City

82’ Castellanos pokes in a deflected save, the final goal in a 5-0 romp. 6

July 30, vs Columbus Crew

14’ A curling corner from Jesús Medina and Castellanos out-jumps the Crew’s backline and the Milwaukee Bucks starting five, heading the ball into the top left corner. 9

August 14, vs Inter Miami

20’ Moralez whips the ball across the box and Castellanos heads it into the far side of the goal, crossing up the goalkeeper. 9

August 14, vs Inter Miami

45+1’ (penalty) Handball, penalty, Panenka. Easy with the theatrics my guy. 5

August 28 vs New England Revolution

32’ A chip over the top from Moralez releases Castellanos who loops a header over goalkeeper Matt Turner. The strike beats the in-form goalie, and the top team in MLS. 10

August 28 vs New England Revolution

55’ A curling cross from Moralez, Castellanos loses his defender and volleys across the goalkeeper. Turner didn’t have a chance. 10

September 3, at Nashville

90’ Morales feeds a pass to Castellanos, who crosses up the goalkeeper on the far post. A gorgeous goal in service of a lost cause: NYCFC was down 3-0. 8

September 18, at Cincinnati FC

60’ (penalty) Hot-headed Geoff Cameron commits a brainless foul in the box. Castellanos steps to the spot and shoots down the center. A lucky game-winner. 4

September 22, at New Jersey Red Bulls

30’ A Moralez pass into a crowded penalty area and Castellanos gets off a quick left-footed strike. The goal put NYCFC up 0-1 in a match they later throw away. 9

October 23, vs DC United

7’ Just like in AYSO: Sean Johnson’s goal kick lands deep in DC United’s half, where goalkeeper Bill Hamid scuffs the clearance. Castellanos recovers and chips it in, easy peasy. 8

October 23, vs DC United

11’ Physical comedy: A simple back pass sends a DC United defender flying to the ground. Castellanos calmly controls the ball and slots it past the keeper. 8

October 27, vs. Chicago Fire

51’ (penalty) Castellanos lashes the ball into the lower-left corner, leaving goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina flat-footed—this was only goal NYCFC scored in 2021 against Chicago and their 17-year-old goalkeeping prodigy. It secured a nervy 1-0 win. 9

October 30, at Inter Miami

33’ A pass from Keaton Parks, a bit of space, and Castellanos unleashes a long-range shot from outside the box—his only goal from distance this season. 9

October 30, at Inter Miami 

60’ James Sands to Moralez to Castellanos, who controls it with the studs of his right boot and nutmegs the goalkeeper. A team goal finished with exquisite individual effort. 9

November 7, vs Philadelphia Union

53’ A long cross from Moralez, a powerful header crosses the goalkeeper, and 10-man NYCFC level the score with Philadelphia: The goal that won Castellanos the Golden Boot. 10

19 goals in 60 seconds

Here’s the quick-cut montage:

A man of quality

A few observations. 

One, Castellanos is good at penalties—if a little florid. Remember years past, when that other designated penalty taker wasn’t so great? Water under the bridge.

Two, Castellanos is señor octubre, with five goals in six games—six goals in seven games if you include the match against the Union. Not only that, the quality has been outstanding. It helps when your striker hits his stride just as the playoffs start.

Three, Castellanos is deadly in the air. Some of his most memorable–and most impactful–goals came off that meaty Argentine forehead.

The winner is…

As for the best goal of the year, the second strike from Castellanos on August 28 against the Revolution stands out. It wasn’t flashy, it was merely unstoppable, a clinical goal that could beat any team in MLS.

You don’t need to overthink it when you’re this good.

Watch it for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments.