Taty Castellanos picked up where he left off in the 2021 MLS season, netting a first-half brace to lead New York City FC to a comfortable 2-0 win over Santos de Guapiles in the opening leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica Tuesday night.
The second leg will be played at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium on Feb. 23.
Castellanos scored his first goal from the penalty spot in the 5th minute after Michael Barquero handled the ball in the box. Last year’s Golden Boot presented by Audi winner added his second on the half-hour mark, when a ball that deflected off a pair of Santos defenders fell into his path and the Argentine striker lashed home from 12 yards out.
Moralez had another golden chance on 22 minutes when he fired off the underside of the crossbar after a Santiago Rodriguez cutback. The ball spun back to kiss the bar again before it was cleared.
NYCFC were sloppy defensively late in the first half, but Santos couldn’t capitalize with errant shots. And the Cityzens nearly added a third goal before the break when Santos defender Luis Hernandez caromed Moralez's driven cross off the post.
Castellanos turned provider in the 67th minute, putting his service on a plate for Rodriguez. Yet the Uruguay youth international fired wide of the target from close range.
A minute later, Rodriguez was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Josimar Mendez, leaving NYCFC to finish the match with 10 men and miss the suspended Rodriguez in the second leg.
- THE BIG PICTURE: NYCFC got the job done, thanks to Castellanos’ first-half brace – and the Cityzens should have made the scoreline even more lopsided if not for several caroms off the woodwork and a few quality saves by Santos goalkeeper Ruiz. It’s just the first match of their 2022 season, but some sloppy mistakes at the back would've proven costly against a better opponent.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Castellanos’ second goal essentially sealed the win. A gift? Sure, but he capitalized on the double deflection with a ferocious finish.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Castellanos, who scored 22 combined goals in the regular season and playoffs last year, has proven to be a streaky scorer. A hot start in CCL could be an auspicious sign for an NYCFC side pegged by some as MLS’ best chance at a first modern-iteration title lift in the tournament.
- SAN: Friday, Feb. 18 at Guadalupe | 8 pm ET | Costa Rican Primera Division
- NYC: Wednesday, Feb. 23 vs. Santos de Guapiles | 6 pm ET (FS2, TUDN) | Concacaf Champions League