Valentin Castellanos was the man in the middle of the action on Saturday in New York City FC's 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Union at Yankee Stadium, and he was a talking point for the losing side for several reasons.
The Argentine was involved in all four NYCFC goals, drawing penalties for the first two and scoring the last two himself. While Philly head coach Jim Curtin conceded the first penalty was fair, Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, whistled for the second penalty, was fired up over the call after the game.
“Last time I checked, soccer is a contact sport, right? It’s not like I pushed him from behind. It wasn’t even shoulder to shoulder. I was in front of the guy. I just saw the replay right now and the guy throws his head back. It’s a flop," Bedoya told reporters after the game.
“I think it’s part of the game that you have a little contact. That would never have been called in the run of play outside of the box. I was just pissed because the first explanation the ref gave me was that he thought I pushed him from behind. And that’s completely BS because I was in front of the guy.
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“So that was frustrating because that changed the whole complexion of the game -- 2-2 in their house,” he continued. “They got a lot of confidence after that goal and we kind of sat back and we weren’t able to break the press like we were in the first half.”
Bedoya also tweeted a response to the call, quipping that Castellanos' actions belonged in a nearby theater.
Curtin, typically measured in his responses, also argued his player had been hard done by with the second penalty call.
"Castellanos was good at maybe embellishing a little bit and making it look worse than it was. On that play [Castellanos] doesn’t even see Ale coming. In my mind simple as I can put it: Ale is entitled to that ball just as much as Castellanos is. He puts his body in between the two, wins the ball. It looks like a hard contact but this is a contact game. I think the ref got that one wrong."
Even despite the disputed penalty, Curtin admitted his side was second-best in the game.
"We weren’t good enough on the night in the key moments. Auston [Trusty] slipped before that play, too, so we had a chance to clear it and then we slipped at the top of the box. So mistakes did us in."