Man City’s Deyna Castellanos hoping to impact Manchester derby

The rebirth of the Manchester City women’s team in 2014 coincided with a major upheaval in women’s football in England. The wheels were already turning with Matt Beard’s multinational Liverpool side going on to win their second straight league title in Man City’s first season in the Women’s Super League.

Nick Cushing, who had taken the lead before City’s debut season in the top flight, would lead his team to League Cup victory in his debut season, beating Chelsea in the semi-finals before beating Arsenal in the final. (It would also be the first season the Gunners failed to win the trophy: they’d won the first three and added two more since.) The coach, who now works with NYCFC, spent his first season and a half honing his squad, and although Cushing had some non-Brits on the team, he always professed a native 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 season that saw the Sky Blues drop just four points all season, winning the title signaled a decisive changing of the guard and an era where professionalism and better standards reigned supreme.

Outside of their first season in the WSL, City have finished worse than second only once: last season when they finished third in the league, which was still enough to close the 2022-23 season with a Champions League clash start. But life at WSL is becoming increasingly difficult, thanks in no small part 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 be the first Manchester derby, let alone the first, to be played at the Etihad, the men’s stadium hosted as the two kicked off the 2019-20 season started in front of 31,213 spectators, which was a Super League record at the time, it is a fitting place for the growing rivalry between two of England’s best sides. Despite this, City have a certain advantage: they are yet to be beaten by United in the league and have yet to squander a point or even give up a goal at home when the two teams have clashed in the past.

Although this will be the women’s side’s third game at the Etihad, following the 2019 derby and a League Cup group stage match against Everton in 2014, it will be Gareth Taylor’s first stint as City manager at the men’s home: the first game at the new-era Etihad. Gone are the days of the largely homegrown squad led by Cushing, who has been replaced by a revamped team that attracts high-profile stars from around the world and brings a mix of experience and strength. Her signing of Deyna Castellanos, announced in early June, sums up everything about the new [Taylor] era in Manchester.

The young Venezuelan forward, who rose to fame as a teenager at Florida State at the top of the US collegiate system, was so great that she was even shortlisted for the FIFA BEST award in 2017, eventually finishing third [in the world]. But much more than just a footballer, Deyna has previously worked in broadcast journalism for Telemundo during the 2018 and 2019 World Cup and also brings an analytical eye to her work on the pitch.

That broader view and focus on the bigger picture is arguably what brought the dynamic attacker to Manchester, where the 23-year-old wanted to be challenged in new and different ways. Speaking to ESPN last month, the Venezuela captain conceded that it might even sound a bit silly to some, but she can learn and grow by playing in less than ideal weather as she has been for the past two years was somewhat spoiled when she played professional football seasons in Spain.

Manchester City gives her the perfect environment to do her best and as much as she enjoys the city and life off the pitch, it was important to step out of her comfort zone. It was also an ongoing theme in Deyna’s career as she left home at 17 to play and study in the United States. When she was thrust into a strange world, she admits it was a frustrating time: she couldn’t communicate with those around her as she only spoke Spanish at the time, although she is fond of pointing out that “football only speaks one language. “But it was off the pitch, in her lectures and in social situations, that she initially struggled to get a handle on the language.

Being adaptable by nature, she is as expressive as she is shy on the pitch, but Deyna already seems to have settled into her Manchester surroundings and has managed to get to grips with the physicality of the English league. She also admits she’s never been as fit in her life as she is now, which has further helped her acclimate. The 23-year-old also wanted to highlight how kind the team and coaching staff have been in helping everyone settle into their new surroundings, even as one of seven signings ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Ahead of the Manchester derby – the local clash has steadily 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 of the healthy environment within the team. Even if she spends most of her time with “the Spanish … Vicky”. [Losada]laia [Aleixandri]Leila [Ouahabi]’ as well as Alex Greenwood, Ellie Roebuck and Alanna Kennedy – whom she describes as one of the biggest jokers on the team – ‘everyone’ is her final word on the subject, underscoring the camaraderie within the group.

Indeed, that togetherness could play a crucial role when the team take on United at the Etihad on Sunday. United come into play after three strong performances in the league, including a hearty win at Old Trafford last weekend.

Although the Citizens will play only their third game at the Etihad on Sunday after not being at the men’s stadium since the start of their 2019-20 season with a win over their local rivals, there is great excitement about the return of the 53,000-seat kettles. As Deyna says, “You’re 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 nicer.”

For the attacker, City’s road to success will depend on his style of play. “I think we just have to follow our philosophy and keep playing the game we play, be confident and try not to make mistakes. It will be crucial to take advantage of the opportunities that we will have,” she told ESPN. “But I also think it’s just about having our personality and our own style and if we do that very well we can win the game.”

Three years ago the Derby was decided by a world-class shot from Caroline Weir, who left the club in the summer. (The Scotland international now plays at Real Madrid.) Although Deyna is yet to open her league account for City – she scored an 89th-minute penalty against Tomiris-Turan in the Champions League earlier this year – the 23-year-old is-old has more than a few stunning shots in her arsenal. The latest of these came for her country last month when she defeated Scotland’s Jenna Fife from 45 yards. With United having given up just five goals so far this season (split between Arsenal and Chelsea), the Citizens may need a similar moment of magic. It could well be Deyna’s chance to shine. Man City’s Deyna Castellanos hoping to impact Manchester derby

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