Taty Castellanos moved closer to making another piece of Major League Soccer history on Sunday evening – if he's here long enough, that is.

Castellanos scored his ninth and 10th goals of the 2022 season in New York City FC’s 2-2 draw against Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium to pull back into a virtual tie atop the standings in the Golden Boot presented by Audi chase.

If he passes FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira (who currently has the tie-breaking edge with more assists before playing in Week 18 Monday vs. Inter Miami CF) and stays ahead of all other challengers, the Argentine would become the first-ever repeat winner. But that’s only if a club from abroad doesn’t snap him up during the summer transfer season.

“For me, that’s not the focus,” Castellanos said Sunday through an interpreter. “I’m not here to score goals just for the Golden Boot. I’m here to score goals to help my team out in every way possible. And then to just continue to work hard on the training pitch. Obviously I would welcome it. But that’s not my main focus.”

There hasn’t been much in terms of recent credible transfer news since MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert reported NYCFC have a $15-million valuation of Castellanos, who won 2021's Golden Boot with 19 goals and eight assists, before NYCFC captured a first-ever MLS Cup title.

Only 23 years old and with a track record as the league's most consistent scorer since 2020, all as MLS gains more of a reputation for player development, he’s obviously an appealing prospect.

Golden Boot history

Challenging to become the sixth two-time winner of the award, and the first-ever to do it in consecutive seasons, would only improve that transfer-centric appeal. The others to do it twice?

  • Preki in 1997 and 2003 (Kansas City Wizards)
  • Taylor Twellman in 2002 and 2005 (New England Revolution)
  • Jeff Cunningham in 2006 and 2009 (RSL, Dallas)
  • Chris Wondolowski in 2010 and 2012 (San Jose Earthquakes)
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2014 and 2016 (New York Red Bulls)

For interim head coach Nick Cushing, it’s reached the point where even after a few quiet games, it’s always a question of when rather than if with Castellanos.

“We know that if he goes a game or two without scoring, the goal is literally around the corner,” Cushing said. “Because he is really, really talented and really, really hungry to add goals for this team.”

"I don’t feel pressure"

If Castellanos does become the first player to win the Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons, the nature of those two campaigns might be different.

Castellanos scored in 15 of his 32 MLS appearances in 2021, though he did go on runs at the beginning and the end of the campaign. So far in 2022, six of his 10 goals have come in just two matches – two against Atlanta and four in a 6-0 thumping of Real Salt Lake in mid-April. He's also already matched his output from the penalty spot with four PKs converted.

One thing's clear: If Castellanos remains in the Bronx for the entire 2022 campaign, he's bound to impact the league's top-scorer race.

“For me, I don’t feel pressure,” Castellanos said of his role. “Pressure is definitely not the right word to use. I would think it would be more responsive. It’s my responsibility as a striker to provide goals for this team.”

Or, as Cushing put it: “If he’s here, he will continue to score when he’s here.”