FC Dallas winger Fabian Castillo's stardom in 2015 hasn't exactly come out of nowhere. But few would argue he's had his best season in MLS this year.
The Colombian international enjoyed a breakout season, and ahead of Dallas' Western Conference Championship Leg 1 game against the Portland Timbers on Sunday (7:30 pm ET, FS1, FOX Deportes in US, TSN5 in Canada), Castillo discussed some of his accomplishments on the field and hobbies off the pitch.
It’s also worth noting that, while answering these questions, an onslaught of young children were approaching him asking for autographs, to which he obliged. Talk about a man of the people.
Leading Scorer: Castillo led FC Dallas in goals scored with nine and is the first person not named Blas Perez to do so since 2011. Much of this production came early in the season, scoring eight of his nine goals between March and July. But after a two-month scoring drought, he found the stat sheet again in the club’s road loss during the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal against Seattle.
My coach, the landlord: When Castillo first signed with FC Dallas in 2011, he lived with then-academy coach and current head coach Oscar Pareja before he took the head coaching job with the Colorado Rapids. The fact Pareja opened his doors to the young star helped him adapt to the stark culture change between Colombia and the US as a 19-year-old rising star.
“I’m grateful to have a coach who would do something like that for me,” Castillo said via translator. “It gave me confidence and brought us closer together. I love his family, and his family loves me.”
Colombian caps: Castillo joined the Colombian national team for the first time this season. He received his first call-up from Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman himself in late August, and joined the team for a friendly against Peru in September. He played 31 minutes in the friendly, and then received a call-up in October for the World Cup Qualifiers.
“It really caught me by surprise,” Castillo said of being called by Pekerman. “I was expecting someone from the national team staff would call, but he called me himself, and it made me even more happy.”
Castillo scored a goal for FC Dallas against Real Salt Lake the night after finding out about the call-up, and pointed to the FCD emblem on his jersey as a gesture of gratitude toward the club for helping him grow as a player.
He’s an All-Star: The speedster made his first MLS All-Star appearance this summer, playing in 45 minutes after coming off the bench. Castillo pulled off his typical dazzling moves to create a few chances against Tottenham Hotspur. This, along with his ascent to stardom with FC Dallas, landed him atop the MLS 2015 24 under 24 list.
International rumors: Castillo is no stranger to transfer rumors, especially as his career continues to blossom in Dallas. He has most recently been tied to Mexico’s Club América, but has been linked to a slew of others in the past year, including teams in Belgium and Italy.
As far as the most recent rumors are concerned, FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo confirmed teams are always interested, but the club is focusing on the upcoming playoff series against Portland.
Modest about music: When ‘keeper Jesse Gonzalez was asked about any hidden talents, he jokingly claimed to be the best singer on the team, also claiming skill at the violin. Castillo, on the other hand, did not have as much to boast about musically.
“I can play the bongos,” Castillo said. “Not very well. But I can play them.”
Hey, I'm a video game character! Like Gonzalez, Castillo frequently plays the popular FIFA video game. His favorite team to play as is Barcelona when playing isolated matches, but in career mode, he prefers to play as himself.
He’s not the only one in his household that picks Fabian.
“Knowing that I’m a character in a video game is awesome,” Castillo said. “My wife and I have a lot of fun with that.”
Born for soccer: Despite his breakneck speed and athletic ability, Castillo said there’s no other sport he plays in his free time. Even when asked what he thinks he would be good at outside of the pitch, Castillo couldn’t fathom doing anything else.
“I was born for soccer,” Castillo said.
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Watching the action? Castillo is normally on the field, but he got caught taking his eyes off the action while sidelined during a game in 2014. Admiring his watch, the camera picked up his delayed reaction when Perez scored the winner in a game against Seattle. Probably not his shining moment, but chances are it was a pretty sweet watch.
Stay in your lane Castillo excels as a midfielder, so it's fair to say playing in goal is not in his future. The 24-year-old spent a few moments after training Wednesday trying to defend PKs from various teammates, even wearing Gonzalez’s gloves in the process. The result was to be expected, with Michel adding insult to injury by kicking his shoe off before draining a penalty past a rooted-to-the-ground Castillo.
“Never,” Castillo said with a smile, when asked if he has a future as a ‘keeper.