NYCFC now shift a watchful eye toward Week 34's other matches as several different Eastern Conference results could see the Cityzens officially secure a postseason spot. Meanwhile, Inter Miami have officially been eliminated from playoff contention with the defeat.
Castellanos' star showing gave him 18 goals and eight assists on the year, moving him past D.C. United's Ola Kamara to lead that Golden Boot presented by Audi race. But it was Miami who generated the first strong look when Blaise Matuidi slipped in Gonzalo Higuaín, only for the Argentine striker to be denied by Sean Johnson's diving save to his left.
That proved wasteful roughly 15 minutes later thanks to Castellanos' long-distance golazo. The Argentine forward received a pass from Keaton Parks about 25 yards out before firing a thunderbolt past substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy to make it 1-0 NYCFC.
In the 54th minute, Federico Higuaín – who announced his impending retirement earlier this week – came within inches of leveling the match. The MLS legend fired a half-volley that appeared destined to score, though Johnson's finger-tip save pushed the ball off the crossbar and out.
However, Miami continued to press and found their equalizer a minute later. A scrambled corner kick fell right into Nicolas Figal's path around the six-yard box, and he fired home to make it 1-1.
But the game wouldn't remain tied for very long. Five minutes after Figal's equalizer, Castellanos was played in behind by Maxi Moralez and made no mistake, depositing his second of the match to put NYCFC ahead once again, this time for good.
Before the final whistle, promising youngster Talles Magno joined the action. The Brazilian forward received a layoff atop the box from Castellanos and easily slotted home a 3-1 finish.
- THE BIG PICTURE: NYCFC move into third place in the Eastern Conference (for the time being) and can clinch a postseason spot this weekend depending on other results. They'll wrap up their regular season on Decision Day against the Philadelphia Union. And while Saturday's result officially eliminates Inter Miami from playoff contention, head coach Phil Neville already had one eye on the 2022 campaign, stating before kickoff that they'd use Saturday's match, as well as their Decision Day one against the Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution, as a chance for players to prove they belong.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Valentín Castellanos' first-half strike was worth the price of admission. His 18 goals this year are the most by an NYCFC player in a single season other than David Villa, who had three campaigns with 18+ goals.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Valentín Castellanos put NYCFC on his back, scoring twice and adding one assist to secure three points and lead the Golden Boot presented by Audi race.