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Bulls Abroad: Santiago Castano called up for Colombia U-20s

Apparently, RBNY's homegrown 'keeper is the subject of an international tug-of-war. A tug-of-war Colombia is reportedly winning...

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this is awkward.

A few days ago, Tab Ramos named his roster for the US U-20 Men's National Team's last hurrah before it gets down to the serious business of January's CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which will bring FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification to its final four.

Santiago Castano, the New York Red Bulls' homegrown 'keeper, was named as one of just two goalkeepers in the squad. The call-up itself was no guarantee that Castano would make Ramos's squad for the big tournament in Jamaica next month. But it's a much greater vote of confidence in favor of the RBNY man than offered to those goalkeepers who were not selected to go to Honduras for the final chance to impress the coach before he starts making the hard choices.

Consider the fact Castano has made the greatest number of appearances for the US U-20s of any goalkeeper in pool this year (four), and you would be forgiven for thinking that he was a pretty good bet to be in Ramos's January plans.

And if the U-20s made the top four of that tournament, you'd imagine most of the squad would be likely candidates to play in the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand next summer. And some of those players would doubtless get a shot at Olympic qualifying and maybe get a chance to play in Brazil in 2016.

So a little mid-December trip to Honduras was quite a big deal for a young 'keeper who is unlikely to see serious minutes for his club for a couple of seasons at least, but could potentially travel the world with his national team as he waits for his big break with RBNY.

It is a similar story for a multitude of young players all over the world. In South America, for example, Uruguay will host CONMEBOL's equivalent of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship from January 14 to February 7.

The CONMEBOL nations will compete for their continent's U-20 title, and U-20 World Cup places, and Olympic places, with qualification for the 2015 Pan-American games functioning as a sort of consolation prize. That is a career's worth of international tournaments for some lucky young players - and it starts by showing well in January 2015.

Unsurprisingly, CONMEBOL U-20 team managers are getting their players together for final training sessions in the build-up to the big tournament.

Colombia's U-20 coach, Carlos "Piscis" Restrepo, has called up 26 players for a camp that will run from December 15-23, break for Christmas, resume from December 26 to 30, break for New Year's celebrations, and then pick up again on January 2.

The final squad of 23 players will travel to Uruguay on January 10, which is the day after the US U-20s are scheduled to open their CONCACAF tournament with a match against Guatemala.

Who cares what Colombia is doing? Santiago Castano cares.

Castano was born in Queens, NY to Colombian parents. He is eligible to play for both USA and Colombia. As it happens, both countries apparently have him in mind for January: he has been called into Colombia's U-20 squad for its December training camp.

This is no small thing. Colombia won the 2013 South American Youth Championship. Restrepo coached that team too; a team that included Juan Fernando Quintero, who scored the senior national team's winning goal against Ivory Coast in the 2014 World Cup.

Still, it is a surprise to hear Castano has accepted the call-up, as reported by mlssoccer.com.

Surprising largely because if Tab Ramos knew Castano was in line for a Colombia call-up and planning on answering the call, he probably wouldn't have bothered to include the player in his plans for Honduras.

It is, of  course, possible each team knew of the other's intentions regarding Castano, and deliberately engineered a situation that would force him to choose between them.

For Castano, his decision might have come from his heart - he has mentioned his profound affection for Colombia and its national team - or his head (Zack Steffen, recently signed by Bundesliga's SC Freiburg, is arguably the top 'keeper in the U-20 pool). Perhaps both.

Whatever the reason, it ought not to matter a great deal to the New York Red Bulls: they still have a U-20 national team 'keeper in the squad. At least for December. The hope is simply Castano kicks on to win selection for the big January tournament, as it would have been had he been in Honduras with Ramos's team.

If Castano's decision to take his chance with Colombia has irreparably damaged any further chance of advancing with Ramos's US squad (and one imagines that is the case), then it is to be hoped his choice is rewarded with a place on Restrepo's roster for Uruguay.

One or way another, competitive minutes in January 2015 should be Castano's only ambition. Whether he is successful or not in that quest, as long as he is spending as much of his time as possible honing and improving his skills at the highest performance level he can reach, he is developing exactly as RBNY would hope.