Man City’s Deyna Castellanos hopes to make an impact on the Manchester derby

The revival of the Manchester City women’s team in 2014 coincided with what would be seen as a major upheaval in women’s football in England. The wheels were already turning with Matt Beard’s multinational Liverpool side, who would go on to claim their second straight league title in Man City’s maiden season in the Women’s Super League.

Nick Cushing, who had taken charge ahead of City’s first season in the top flight, would lead his side to league cup victory in his maiden campaign, beating Chelsea in the semi-finals before beating Arsenal in the final. (It would also be the first season in which the Gunners did not win the trophy: they had won the first three and have since added two more.) The coach, who now works with NYCFC, spent his first season and a half to polish his team, and despite the presence of a few non-Britons in the team, Cushing always professed a local ideal.

When City won their first – and only – league title in 2016, the team did so with just four non-British players – defender Megan Campbell, midfielders Daphne Corboz and Tessel Middag, striker Kosovare Asllani – in their ranks. But far from shocking the league with a near-perfect campaign in which the Sky Blues dropped just four points all season, the title victory marked a firm change of guard and an era where professionalism and better standards were paramount.

Apart from their first season in the WSL, City have only finished below second place on one occasion: last season, when they claimed third place in the league, which was still enough for start the 2022-23 campaign with a Champions League clash. Yet life if WSL is becoming increasingly tricky, not least thanks to the growth of City’s local rivals Manchester United, who currently sit three points above City in the table.

Although Sunday’s clash (7.30am ET / 12.30pm GMT) won’t mark Manchester’s first derby or even the first to be played at the Etihad – the men’s stadium played host when the two kicked off the 2019-20 season in front of a crowd of 31,213, which was a Super League record at the time – it’s an ideal venue for the growing rivalry between two of England’s top teams. That said, City have a certain advantage: they have yet to be beaten in the league by United, and have yet to drop a point or even give up a goal at home when the two sides have faced each other in the past.

Although this will be the women’s team’s third game at the Etihad – after the derby in 2019 and a league cup group game against Everton in 2014 – it will be Gareth Taylor’s first outing as manager. de City for men: the first match played at the Etihad of the new era. Gone are the days of the largely local team led by Cushing, replaced by a new-look team that attracts top stars from around the world, blending diversity of experience and strength. Their signing of Deyna Castellanos, announced in early June, sums it all up about the new [Taylor] time in Manchester.

Rising to fame as a teenager playing for Florida State at the top level of the American college system, the young Venezuelan forward’s exploits were so great that she was even shortlisted for the FIFA BEST award in 2017, eventually finishing third. [in the world]. But much more than a footballer, Deyna has already worked in broadcast journalism for Telemundo during the 2018 and 2019 World Cup and also brings an analytical look to her work on the pitch.

That bigger vision and bigger vision is arguably what brought the dynamic striker to Manchester, with the 23-year-old keen to be challenged in new and different ways. Speaking to ESPN last month, the Venezuelan captain admitted that it might even seem a bit silly to some, but she can learn and grow by having to play in less than ideal weather conditions, having been somewhat spoiled in playing professional football in Spain for the past two years. seasons.

Manchester City provide the perfect environment for her to be the best she can be and while she loves the city and her life off the pitch, getting out of her comfort zone has been vital. This has also been a recurring theme in Deyna’s career, as she left home at 17 to perform and study in the United States. Pushed into a foreign world, she admits it was a frustrating time: she was unable to communicate with those around her as she only spoke Spanish, although she is happy to point out that for her, “football does not speak only one language. But that was away from the field, in her lectures and social situations, where she first struggled before mastering the language.

Being naturally adaptable, she is an expressive player on the pitch as much as she is shy of it, but Deyna already seems to have settled into her Manchester surroundings and managed to master the English league physique. She also admits that she has never been fitter in her life than she is now, which has further helped her acclimatise. The 23-year-old was also keen to highlight how welcoming the squad and coaching staff have been in helping everyone feel comfortable in their new surroundings, even as one of seven. new signings ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Speaking ahead of the Manchester Derby – the hometown clash has increasingly become a highlight of the WSL calendar as Man United sit above City in the league, with 21 points from eight games to City’s 18 – Deyna spoke about the healthy environment in the team. Although she spends most of her time with “the Spaniards… Vicky [Losada]Laia [Aleixandri]Leila [Ouahabi]as well as Alex Greenwood, Ellie Roebuck and Alanna Kennedy – whom she cites as one of the biggest pranksters on the team – “everyone” is her last word on the subject, hammering home the camaraderie within the group. .

Indeed, this unit could play a crucial role when the team trains with United at the Etihad on Sunday. United come into the game after three strong performances in the league, including a heartfelt win at Old Trafford last weekend.

Although Sunday will mark only the third time the Citizens have played at the Etihad, having been absent from the men’s stadium since they opened their 2019-20 campaign with a victory over their local rivals, there is a great feeling. of excitement at the idea of ​​returning to the 53,000-seat cauldron. As Deyna says, “you are always proud to see what color the city is going to be”, and even if the players have friends on the other team, being able to say “that the city is blue is more fun “.

For the striker, the path to success for City will lie in the way he plays. “I think we just have to follow our philosophy and keep playing the game we’re playing and be confident, and try not to make any mistakes. Taking advantage of the opportunities we’re going to have is going to be key,” he said. she told ESPN. “But also, I think it’s just to have our own personality and style and if we do it really well, we can win the game.”

Three years ago the derby was decided by a world-class strike from Caroline Weir, who left the club this summer. (The Scotland international now plays at Real Madrid.) Although Deyna has yet to open her league account for City – she scored an 89th-minute penalty against Tomiris-Turan in the Champions League earlier in the season. year – the 23-year-old has more than a few jaw-dropping strikes in his arsenal. The last came for her country last month, when she beat Scotland’s Jenna Fife from 45 yards. With United having allowed just five goals so far this season (split between Arsenal and Chelsea), the Citizens could well need a similar moment of magic. This may be Deyna’s opportunity to shine.


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