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After making his New York Red Bulls II debut on May 14, defender Juan Castillo went on to be one of the main fixtures of New York’s backline during the 2021 season.

“In the first games, I tried playing and it was complicated because we play a very direct style of play,” Castillo said. “But now I’ve learned, and it’s easier for me. I feel good with the team, I’ve learned so much, and now I feel that I can give more to the team.”

The Tumaco, Colombia, native previously played for Millonarios FC U-20 as well as the Colombia Youth National Team, starting with the U-17’s.

“The difference is that in Colombia, they want to have more the ball, move it around more,” Castillo said while noting the differences between USL and other leagues he’s played in. “Over here, we play more narrowly, in Colombia we play with the wingers, fullbacks, that’s the difference that stands out. Also, over here football is more physical.”

Castillo played 29 matches for New York, starting 25 of those contests. He also finished tied for third on the team with three assists.

On the defensive side, he finished tied for the team lead in interceptions (54), while ranking in the top three in numerous other statistical categories, including clearances (92), tackles (87), tackles won (44), duels won (166). He also led the team in aerial duels won (57).

The 19-year-old has been studying and learning from New York Red Bulls defender Andrés Reyes, a fellow native of Colombia.

“It’s been very helpful because I always watch his games,” Castillo said. “I always watch him because now I’m playing as a center-back. I’m learning from him, I see his movements, what he does, what he does without the ball, with the ball, and what decisions he makes. What I like the most is that he’s aggressive, it’s something I’m learning.”

After playing in 90 percent of the club’s matches this season, the young defender has enjoyed his time in New York.

“I’ve felt good, I’ve felt happy,” Castillo said. “This is a new experience for me, it’s great to have the chance to live it.”