The 22-year-old Argentine is coming off a torrid August where he scored four goals and dished out two assists, earning his second-career MLS Player of the Month honor for his efforts. It's the continuation of what could finish as a career-best campaign for Castellanos, leading to some MVP buzz around the striker.
Ahead of the stretch run, Castellanos said he's focused on maintaining this level, starting with the Cityzens' massive Eastern Conference clash with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). He's currently on 11g/6a through 21 games (all starts).
"This has been my best season," Castellanos told reporters on a Thursday video call. "I've already tied last year's [personal] record of 11 goals, six assists. But we obviously have a lot of games coming up, so I want to keep working toward that and helping my teammates. I've been working not only on the training pitch but also personally, working to mature and just be a better player, to keep growing.
"But this isn't overnight. This is a process going into training each time, and it takes time, but I'm obviously very happy with the season I'm having and I just want to keep helping the team.
"I'm happy to be the Player of the Month, it's an honor to me. It's an important game this weekend with New England, so we're going to do everything possible to carry this momentum forward to the next match."
Heading to the Supporters' Shield-leading Revs presents NYCFC with a daunting task, but they know they're capable of passing the test – at least in head coach Ronny Deila's eyes. When these sides last met on August 28, NYCFC emerged as 2-0 victors, with Castellanos providing both of the goals.
"That we can beat them," Deila said when asked what he learned from that matchup. "We beat them two weeks ago, we were very dominant. New England is a really good team, but at the same time, it's small differences between the teams in MLS and we can beat them when we are at our best. And that's why it's very, very nice for me to prepare for games because I know what we are capable [of doing]."
Should they replicate the feat, it would be a massive result against a New England side that holds a 10-point lead atop the East and a 14-point lead atop the overall league table. They're on pace to surpass LAFC's record-setting points per game total from the 2019 campaign.
"They have a lot of good players, obviously I was able to score two goals last time so it was kind of revenge on the 'keeper [Matt Turner] last time we played," Castellanos said. "The first time he saved a PK so I was frustrated with that, but soccer's all about these opportunities to get revenge. So it's an important game and we have to give all our effort to get these three points on the road."
NYCFC are also hoping to improve upon their spotty road form. They lost their last game before the international break, a 3-1 setback against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. They have a 2W-5L-3D away record this season, which could come back to bite them as the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs hunt comes into greater view.
"We're just expecting a good game," Castellanos said. "We think this is our opportunity to break a bad streak on the road. Obviously the game against Nashville has left a bad taste in our mouths, but this is an opportunity to face a great team. We also have a great team, and we're ready, we're focused and we want to go out there and win."