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Bulls Abroad: Cristian Casseres plays full 90 in Venezuela U-20 win over Bolivia

Cristian Casseres and the Venezuela men’s U-20 team had a nice start to their November schedule.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Red Bulls fans likely won’t see the best of Cristian Casseres until 2019 at least. The 18-year-old Venezuelan midfielder is assumed to be the answer to the question “what will the Red Bulls do when Tyler Adams leaves?”. But his first team opportunities have been limited in 2018 - three appearances, one start, 97 minutes played for RBNY in MLS to date - and can reasonably be expected to remain limited until next season (or perhaps the season after that: he need not mimic Adams’ rate of development; he’s allowed to advance in his career at his own pace).

Until first team opportunities open up for him, Casseres’ focus has been NYRB II. And he has a shot at appearing in next year’s U-20 World Cup, but two things have to happen first: Venezuela has qualify for the tournament, and he has to be sure he’s in the squad.

He is making progress toward the latter goal.

The Venezuela men’s U-20 national team is using the November international break to test a squad of players against the caliber of opponent they will need to beat in order to qualify for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador have sent U-20 squads to Venezuela to play each other and La Vinotinto in a mini-tournament.

All four teams plus the rest of CONMEBOL (i.e. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay) will meet at the 2019 South American U-20 Championship in January - and the top four teams at that tournament will qualify for the 2019 U-20 World Cup.

There isn’t a lot of time left for a squad to be selected for January; final decisions will have to be made soon about the roster chosen to try to win World Cup qualification. So it is encouraging news for Casseres that he was selected to the Venezuela U-20 squad for this November tournament.

And it is perhaps more encouraging that he started La Vinotinto’s opening game of the competition against Bolivia. Per the VinotintoSub20 Facebook page, Casseres played the full 90 minutes, picking up a yellow card in a game Venezuela won, 1-0.

Reports suggest La Vinotinto perhaps ought to have won more convincingly, so the style of the performance was maybe more satisfying than the scoreline.

Venezuela is back in action on Friday, November 16, against Ecuador.