Taty Castellanos has been hailed as 'top-class' by manager Ronny Deila after his brace in NYCFC's 2-0 win over Inter Miami.
With Heber sidelined since September 2020 with an ACL injury, Castellanos has had to shoulder a much bigger goalscoring burden than he might have expected.
But this season alone, the Argentine has netted eight goals in 18 MLS appearances, setting up a further six - both team highs.
His latest strikes came in a valuable 2-0 win over Inter Miami on Saturday that leaves NYCFC second in the Eastern Conference. The first was a clinical header at the far post from a superb Maxi Moralez delivery, while he doubled his tally from the penalty spot just before half-time.
After the match, Deila praised Castellanos both on and off the field, hailing the 22-year-old as 'top-class'.
“Off the pitch, he does everything right all the time, he’s fit and he battles,” Deila said of Castellanos (via MLSsoccer.com). “Right now, he can do it alone, but we have more depth in the squad and we could play two up front as well when Talles [Magno] is more fit and Heber is back again. What Taty has done this year has been top class."
Deila also praised his striker's willingness to 'fight', despite a hectic schedule which has seen NYCFC play four games since the start of August alone.
“The pass from Maxi was superb, and the finish, I don’t need to say anything about that – it was top, top class,” he added. “He’s difficult to play against, Taty, again playing all the games and to put in that performance, fighting like he did on Wednesday night is something I’m really impressed by. Good to get two more goals, now he has three in two games. We have a top striker.”
Though he insisted he's more focused on getting wins for his team, Castellanos himself was glad to get on the scoresheet. He also told reporters that confidence is something he's not in short supply of.
“I am very happy for the win front and foremost, and for the goals as well,” Castellanos said. “I’m always looking to score goals, every single game, and when it comes to confidence – I’m always confident. The coaching staff and everyone on the support team helps a lot with making sure we’re in the best position.”
Though they're well-placed in the East, NYCFC face a tough period of fixtures. First up is an away trip to Supporters' Shield holders Philadelphia Union, before a Hudson River derby clash at Red Bull Arena and the visit of MLS leaders New England Revolution at the end of August.