New York City FC coach Dome Torrent intimated last week that Valentín Castellanos would be available for the Saturday match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Ultimately, Torrent decided that the 19-year old Argentine was the superior option to start the home contest.
“He has the quality to play, especially against Vancouver,” Torrent told Pro Soccer USA prior to the match. “We want to play a little different with wingers wide and he has these qualities.”
Castellanos had completed just three training sessions with his new club but the limited time in practice did not serve as a dissuasive force for Torrent. His experience as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City told him otherwise.
“In Europe it is normal,” Torrent said. “I remember one game (with Bayern Munich) against Schalke in the Bundesliga and Xavi Alonso arrived on Friday and on Saturday he played. For me its normal. The most important thing is when the coach believes in the player.”
Castellanos rewarded Torrent’s decision when he scored in the opening minute of the second half to help NYCFC earn a 2-2 draw in his Major League Soccer debut.
Castellanos, who transferred from sister club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, said he was at ease with Torrent’s selection.
“I was asked (by the coach) about how I feel to be in the starting XI since I just arrived with the club,” Castellanos said through a translator. “I said, I’m happy for the opportunity that my coach Dome and my teammates gave me to be part of the starting XI.”
A portion of Castellano’s comfort was the result of meeting Torrent in Manchester where he trained with Manchester City prior to fusing with Torque.
“I met him in Manchester and it was a pleasure to work with him there,” Castellanos said. “Being able to work with him here is a gift.”
With his verdict to start Castellanos, Torrent elected to go against the coaching grain that suggests easing a new, young player into the lineup.
Chris Wingert, the former MLS defender who patrolled the back line for NYCFC in its expansion 2015 season, pondered Torrent’s decision as part of the commentary team for the radio broadcast on WNYE.
“Certainly, I was surprised like everyone else,” Wingert said. “That’s not the norm. I think for a guy to come in new to the team you might want to get him into the mix but have him in the 18 and bring him in the second half.”
“I know when he played at Uruguay and know exactly his quality,” Torrent explained. “I was thinking he could do 30 minutes, maybe 60 minutes. He trained with his former club the last 15 days before he arrived so he was fit – and the last two training sessions with us, he was amazing.”
Wingert understood the judgement as part of a professional environment but cautioned that there are ancillary effects to be aware of.
“I can’t imagine the decision sat too well with Tommy McNamara and Rodney Wallace and Jonathan Lewis – guys who could have been that option,” Wingert said. “With that being said, credit to the coach. You shouldn’t be making your lineup based on the traditional way of doing things would be. You should put out your best XI. If he feels Castellanos is in the best XI then that’s who should play.”