Colorado's Kandji inching closer to return

For the first time in more than six months, 2010 MLS Cup hero Macoumba Kandji is set to rejoin the fold with his Colorado Rapids teammates.

The Senegal-born forward, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the match-winning play in MLS Cup last November, told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday that he was confident he would get medical approval to resume full training.

“I know I am feeling good,” he said. “First, there should be just a little bit of contact [in training] and then we can build it up from there.”

Kandji was on his way to get MRI confirmation from his doctor in New York City, Dr. Riley Williams, who did the initial surgery on the ACL and has been working with the 25-year-old forward to rehab the injury. Kandji is familiar with Williams from his playing days in New York, as the doctor serves as the team physician for the Red Bulls.

“I feel very comfortable to have done the surgery with him,” Kandji said. “I feel close to him because I worked with him in New York, where I also broke my foot.”

It’s been a slow and frustrating walk back to health for Kandji, who played an important role in the Rapids’ title run after he was acquired from New York in September of last year. He credits the Colorado coaching staff and his teammates for helping him through such a difficult period.

The closeness of the Rapids as a unit — something that was much discussed last year — has been key. Kandji says support has come from many of the players, including the African contingent Colorado now have on the roster: Sanna Nyassi (Gambia), Joseph Nane (Cameroon) and Eddie Ababio (Ghana) have all joined the club in 2011.

“The team is very close,” Kandji said. “It’s a very good group of guys and I’ve formed a bond with everybody, not just the African guys. Everyone’s been trying to help me through it.”

Kandji says he has particularly enjoyed talking his native Wolof language with Nyassi, with whom he has had many conversations about whether to try and represent his country of birth, Senegal, or the country where he grew up, Gambia.

Kandji says he wants to play for Gambia, much to the friendly annoyance of another old friend and former teammate, ex-Rapids and current Red Bulls 'keeper Bouna Coundoul. Coundoul plays for the Senegal national team.

“I am still very close to [Coundoul] and we speak on the phone often,” Kandji said. “Bouna always gives me a hard time for choosing Gambia.”

Supportive teammates and coaches aside, there is no substitute for playing and Kandji is excited — albeit cautious — about finally getting back on the field.

“Your teammates can only do so much, and it’s been tough for me watching them out there sometimes when you know you just want to get back on the pitch,” he said. “But I wouldn’t change anything. Everything happens for a reason and we’ll take it slow.”