It’s is Match Day 21, and New York City FC will take on Inter Miami and Gonzalo Higuaín, aka The Most Interesting Benchwarmer in the World, at Yankee Soccer Stadium. More to the point: If the reports are true, this is the last time Taty Castellanos will wear the sky blue uniform of NYCFC.
NYCFC deserve to feel good about themselves after a nine-point week. Sunday’s exquisite win over New Jersey at Red Bull Arena followed a tough midweek away victory against FC Dallas and a strange 4-2 romp over New England Revolution. NYCFC are now in second place in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand, and New York City interim head coach Nick Cushing is on a roll.
Inter Miami are coming off an exhibition game against FC Barcelona that did no favors for either team, and a thrilling stoppage-time win over Charlotte FC that featured new signing Alejandro Pozuelo, the Designated Player who had a knack for scoring goals against NYCFC when he was with Toronto FC.
The head-to-head between New York City and Miami is short and sweet: Four games, four NYCFC wins. The goal differential is less lopsided but still definitive. New York City have scored nine goals and allowed four.
Match: NYCFC play Inter Miami FC
Date and Time: Saturday, July 23, 7 pm ET
Venue: Yankee Soccer Stadium
Forecast: It’s Bruce Arena weather, brutally hot and steamy at kickoff, 91˚F/32˚C
Watch: YES, ESPN+ (blackouts apply)
Stream: YES App
Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
• Injury Report: Keaton Parks is out after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot, and Anton Tinnerholm is out with a slight ankle sprain.
• Even though this is totally the last NYCFC game for Taty Castellanos before he heads to Spain and joins Girona FC, nothing official has been announced. This puts the club in a funny spot: The fans will want to give Castellanos a send-off that acknowledges everything he’s done for New York City, but NYCFC likely won’t come out with the kind of ceremonial farewell that New England Revolution gave to Matt Turner. Instead, we can expect a day of vague language and coded gestures – 85th minute sub-off, anyone? – that will give fans the closure they crave.
• Cushing almost addressed the elephant in the room in his pregame press conference on Thursday. “We’re aware of the speculation and we understand the speculation because of the player Taty Castellanos is and the guy he is,” Cushing said. “It’s fair to say it could be his last game.”
• Expect to see a new face on the sideline: Kléberson, one of the key players in Brazil’s 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, joined the NYCFC coaching staff. It’s a good get. Kléberson left the Philadelphia Union organization after coaching their celebrated Academy teams and writing as the assistant coach for Philadelphia Union II, and he’ll provide a linguistic and cultural link to New York City’s five Brazilian players.
• On the topic of Brazilians, The Athletic profiled Talles Magno, calling him “one of the most complete young players in MLS.” The article reminds us of the post that Noah Kassell-Yung wrote for Hudson River Blue last month.
• The Inter Miami that were a punching bag for the league these past two seasons are much improved this year. Leonardo Campana has energized Miami’s attack: The 21-year-old Ecuadorian has eight goals in 20 games, and has scored some beauts for his club. Pozuelo is being integrated into the lineup after joining Miami earlier this month, and goalkeeper Drake Callender has his moments.
• Even the Most Interesting Benchwarmer in the World is putting in solid performances: Higuaín is once again finding the back of the net, coming off the bench to score in Miami’s two most recent league games.
• The oddsmakers pick NYCFC to win: It ain’t even close. Not to jinx it, but New York City did well when they were underdogs these past two games — how will they perform now that they’re overwhelming favorites? As of the publication of this article, BetMGM gives Taty Castellanos the best chance of scoring, followed by Héber, Talles Magno, Gabriel Pereira, Thiago, Santiago Rodríguez, and Maxi Moralez. Campana, Higuaín, and Pozulo trail behind — if you believe the algorithm, a clean sheet for NYCFC is the most likely outcome.
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