When they needed their golden boot winner the most, New York City FC got exactly that.
Valentin Castellanos, Major League Soccer’s leading goal scorer during the 2021 season, fired what proved to be the game-winner for NYCFC in a Round One 2-0 victory over Atlanta United on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. With the win, NYCFC advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs.
Castellanos’ goal won’t be the prettiest he’ll score — far from it — but his tally stabilized NYCFC just three minutes into the second half after Atlanta monopolized possession in the opening 45 minutes.
The visitors even looked as though they went ahead in the 44th minute of a scoreless match, but Santiago Rodriguez’s goal was ruled offside after video review.
In the 49th minute, Castellanos found himself on the end of a Maxi Moralez cross just outside the six-yard box, but his right-footed volley was shanked straight into the ground. Luckily, it bounced high above the goal where Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan was rooted. He could only watch as the ball floated back down and bounced into the back of the goal to put the Cityzens ahead.
Just four minutes later, NYCFC doubled its lead when Alexander Callens cleaned up a rebound from a Moralez shot that was saved by Guzan off the post. The Peruvian was unmarked just feet from goal, slotting an easy header to put the Bronx side through to the next round.
They’ll travel up to New England to face the Revolution in the semifinals on Tuesday, Nov. 30.