Nashville SC announced the signing of center-back Robert Castellanos from Rio Grande Valley FC Toros of the USL Championship yesterday. To get a better look at the newest member of the Boys In Gold, we spoke with Carson Merk, who covers USL Championship as the Editor-in-Chief of the Beautiful Game Network.
Ben Wright: How would you describe Castellanos as a player? What’s his style?
Carson Merk: The first thing that comes to mind with Castellanos is his ability on the ball. At center-back, he is able to hold possession and pick out passes consistently. Back in 2019, a member of the RGVFC organization said that he was the most technical player on the roster, which is high praise for a central defender. He also served as captain at times with the Toros and is a hard worker, plus he’s solid in the air.
BW: How did Castellanos perform in USL? Did he stand out as an MLS-level talent, or was his move to Nashville a complete surprise?
CM: Based on his age and the experience he already had entering his time with RGVFC, he definitely projected as an MLS-level talent. Even when the club was struggling, you could typically rely on Caste to put in some quality performances.
BW: There’s clearly a gap between USL Championship and MLS, but we’ve seen USL players succeed in MLS, including Daniel Ríos and Brian Anunga with Nashville last season. Does Castellanos have the potential to become a contributor in MLS?
CM: Yeah, I think he can definitely contribute in Major League Soccer. At only 22 years old and with his mental and physical gifts, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential. Being able to learn from some veterans on that Nashville roster, I could definitely see Robert carving out a role with the club. Off the pitch, he’s also a really great young man and values connecting with the community he’s playing in, so that should help immerse him into the club, too.
BW: Who are some other players from USL you think MLS sides should take a look at?
CM: It’s always tough to determine this because of the factors at play when making that move, specifically with age and international status. A great example of that is someone like Charlie Ward, who has experience in the Aston Villa and Stoke City youth systems. He’s been the best passer, top three at worst, throughout his time in the USL, but he’s 25 years old and takes up an international spot. As an MLS club, for a rotational player, they’d rather turn to a younger, domestic option that may be less talented and save your international spots for the key roles.
But a name that comes to mind would be someone like Ronaldo Damus, who is only 20 years old and won the 2019 USL League One Golden Boot. If he excels with Orange County SC after signing there this offseason, he could get a look from an MLS side. Potentially, Augustine Williams from LA Galaxy II or Bruno Lapa from Birmingham Legion FC, who were both All-League first team players in 2020 and are still only 23 years old.
Thanks to Carson for his insight. Make sure to check out his coverage of all things USL over at The Beautiful Game Network.