Everybody, this is Fabián Castillo. Based on Major League Soccer’s viewership numbers, you probably don’t know who he is, but this is why you should actually be watching the league. Castillo releases this nonsense all the time:
Granted, this level of nonsense is somewhat profound, hence this post, but there’s a reason why the Colombian attacker is the most feared one-on-one threat in MLS. Having originally landed in Dallas in 2011 as a raw-but-wasteful speed merchant, Castillo’s spent the last two years developing a modicum of productivity near goal. The result is not only plays like this but a player that gives head coach Óscar Pareja a game-changing force.
Particularly last season, when Dallas was infected by an Ebola-level injury plague, the team had to rely on organization at the back and its ability to break going forward (which often, ultimately, resulted in set piece success). As the season went on, “ability to break” became a euphemism for “let Fabián work,” especially after Argentine playmaker Mauro Díaz went down with a knee injury. Along with defender Matt Hedges, Castillo led Dallas to a surprise place in last year’s postseason.
At the start of the 2015 season, Castillo’s come back even more productive. His goal rate is roughly the same (every 228 minutes last year; 239 this) but he’s already set up three goals (in a two-assist league, mind you). Last year, Castillo had four assists in 27 appearances. His shot rate is slightly down, which is worrisome, but if that returns to normal while his assist rate persists, we could be looking at a 12-goal, seven-ish-assist, Best XI-worthy season …
… he says, only eight games into the season. Still, if anything, the numbers distract from what makes Castillo so special. When this guy gets the ball on the wing, there’s no player that strikes more fear into opposing fullbacks. His speed is unmatched, while his technique is improving. Not only is has his control improved, but his delivery has gone from “wear helmets in the first row” to … well, what you see, above. Seemingly intent on upping his production, there’s no reason the 22-year-old can’t play his way onto the All-Star game, if not more.
Yes, MLS fans. You read that number right. Despite Castillo being in his fifth year in the league, he’s still only 22. At least, he’s 22 until June, which means he’s just entering his prime. While that prime could possibly be spent elsewhere, a move would come after the league played a crucial role in Castillo’s development. For all the debate about whether Major League Soccer can turn academy and collegiate talent into viable international performers, here is a player that was identified at a young age by Dallas, has drawn significant investment, and would leave the league a demonstrably better player than he arrived.
Yeah, that’s supposed to happen with 18 year olds, but it’s not a given. You need only tell the tails of Jozy Altidore and Lee Nguyen to know fostering young talent is not a given. Although MLS also has its share of Juan Agudelos, consistent, first team minutes have proved a major boon for Castillo.
Right now, Fabián Castillo may be a more productive player than Altidore or Agudelo, if a totally different type of one. Given what Altidore’s accomplished internationally and how much he makes, that’s saying something, particularly given Fabián has largely flown under the broader, more mainstream radar. With more plays like last night’s, however, that radar is going to start picking him up.