Somewhere, lost in the monotony that was #RafaWatch and the signing of Brazilian Juninho (finally), we missed the Red Bulls signing a pair of 17-year-old academy players, goalkeeper Santiago Castano and forward Amando Moreno.
Both players look to be low on the depth chart, reserves players or potential loan candidates. Castano joins a goalkeeping stable that already includes Ryan Meara, who had his contract extended by the team this week, and Luis Robles. Moreno, had been training with the first team, scored a reserves goal and was taught a lesson in professionalism by Thierry Henry before being offered a deal. Despite all that, he's still behind Henry, Kenny Cooper, Fabian Espindola and possibly Josue Martinez on the depth chart.
So it's likely that fans, no different than us, will miss these two players. But will the team?
It's no doubt both are talented players -- Castano first trained with the first team at 14 and has earned multiple youth national team call-ups -- but academy players haven't quite fared very well with the Red Bulls.
The very end of the teams' press release announcing the signings reads like a bit of a grave yard, or some foreshadowing depending on your perspective. Of the five players signed out of the academy, only one, Connor Lade (who also had his contract extended) stuck. Sacir Hot and Matt Kassel were cut last season. Giorgi Chirgadze was released under sketchy circumstances (Chirgadze called them "personal, family issues" in September last year) in March 2011 after signing in Sept. 2009 and sitting out 2010 with an injury. He was called back into camp for 2012, but nothing came of it. Aside from Lade, Juan Agudelo was the only other academy product to make an impact, but he was shipped away to bolster the defense.
That leaves Lade as the last academy man standing.
In their "Meet Our New Signing!" videos on the official site, you can't argue with either of their attitudes. Castano was extremely thankful to his past coaches and Moreno talked a lot about how important hard work is. Both seem grounded and humbled, but also ready to come out and play. They realize they've both come a long way, but that there's still a ways to go.
If there's one thing that endeared Lade to pretty much everyone with any connection to the Red Bulls, it was his work rate. He's not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy and probably not the fastest, but he made up for that in work. If Castano and Moreno can walk the walk along with talking the talk, they'll probably stick around -- especially with the team's new found commitment to American talent.
If not. They'll end up like Hot, Kassel and Chirgadze.