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Bulls Abroad: Uganda wins without Sekagya; Oyongo helps Cameroon qualify for Africa Cup of Nations

Ibrahim is in Uganda, Ambroise is in Cameroon, Matt and Santiago are kicking with Amando in Spain: November 15 was a busy day for RBNY's internationals.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

November 15 was a good day for the contingent of New York Red Bulls called into action for their national teams, and even for one who was merely called up to do a little cheerleading.

The latter player is Ibrahim Sekagya, whose call-up by the Uganda national team was a surprise - not least because the team appeared reluctant to confirm he was actually called up.

Even if it is true, I will not tell you -Milutin Micho Uganda's head coach responding to media questions about Sekagya's call up (myjoyonline.com)

On Friday, one day before Uganda's pivotal Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana (a loss could have effectively eliminated the Cranes from the competition), Sekagya did finally participate in training with the squad, after his presence was characterized as a "morale boost" by sources within the team. He was not part of the match-day squad on Saturday.

This is by no means the first time a national team has turned to a former star for inspiration. Mexico did something very similar in its preparation for the 2014 World Cup, turning part of one pre-tournament friendly into a testimonial for Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

I'm happy to train with the team. I will always come whenever invited -Ibrahim Sekagya (fufa.co.ug)

It is unusual, however, to keep the whole plan under wraps, to the point of ducking direct questions from the media, until the very last minute. We do not yet know whether the Red Bulls or Sekagya himself were aware of Uganda's plan to deploy 'Captain Marvelous' as a talisman rather than a player, but in a results-based business such as soccer, the primary validation of a coach's methods is the outcome of key, competitive matches.

And from RBNY's perspective, it would appear to be entirely without consequence: Mike Petke suggested this weekend had been designated for rest, and Sekagya is presumably free to do whatever he pleases with his days off.

Uganda needed a win over Ghana. Someone in the camp thought the team would benefit from Sekagya's presence on the sidelines. Uganda got the win: Sekagya's effect on squad morale can be assumed to have been positive. And he should be back with the Red Bulls in time to start preparation for the first leg of the Eastern Conference final.

Uganda's result was, in common with all the games featuring RBNY players on November 15, a 1-0 win - but three points keeps the Cranes' hopes of making January's Africa Cup of Nations alive. They move on to Morocco, where they will play Guinea (required to play its home games on neutral ground as a precaution against the West African Ebola outbreak).

Sekagya should head back to RBNY on Sunday, having participated in one training session and watched one of the more important games of soccer in his country's recent history from (one hopes, for his sake - it's a long way to go to watch a match on TV) inside the stadium.

Ambroise Oyongo, the other Red Bull with a direct interest in the November round of AFCON qualifiers, played a more conventional role in Cameroon's 1-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was in the starting lineup, and lasted the entirety of a match neither team necessarily needed to win. Nonetheless, three points guaranteed Cameroon's qualification for the January tournament (now scheduled to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea).

Vincent Aboubakar scored the winner.

The Indomitable Lions have now won four of five games played since their lamentable World Cup - and Oyongo has started in all of those victories (the 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone is the only AFCON qualifier he's sat out to date).

The team has officially won its group, and can start looking forward to playing in Equatorial Guinea in January - the co-host of the 2012 tournament has stepped in to take over from Morocco.

Cameroon has one remaining qualifying match: against Ivory Coast on November 19. The result cannot affect the Indomitable Lions' position in Group D: they lead by four points. Will head coach Volker Finke tinker with his lineup? Perhaps.

Does that mean Oyongo could be on an early flight home? Doubtful. But we live in a world where players get "called up" to cheer on their teammates: if Oyongo is in New Jersey instead of Ivory Coast on Wednesday, it will be just the second-most surprising thing that has happened to a Red Bull on international duty this November.

Incidentally, one of Oyongo's opponents in the DR Congo team just blanked by Cameroon was Yannick Bolasie, full-time player for Crystal Palace and part-time sparring partner with Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Given BWP likes to spend his free time coming up with lyrically sophisticated ways to tease Bolasie, we can only hope this result and the fact "Oyongo" rhymes with "Congo" will be featuring on an internet near you shortly.

RBNY players aren't exclusively involved in AFCON qualifying this week, it just feels that way. In Spain, a cluster of current and former Red Bulls saw time with the US under-20 men's national team against a Republic of Ireland under-21 selection.

This was the second game of a three-match tournament in Marbella for the U-20s. Former Metro, Tab Ramos, switched out eight players from the team that beat Russia's U-21s (4-3, on Wednesday) and brought in once-a-Red-Bull-now-a-Xolo, Amando Moreno. Matt Miazga was one of the three players to keep his place from the previous match. Santiago Castano got the start in goal, and the clean sheet in a 1-0 win (Dembakwi Yomba was the goal-scorer).

The U-20s will finish up in Spain with a run at Canada's U-20s on November 18.