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Rapids' Kandji near return, aims high for 2nd half of season

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Macoumba Kandji may not be traveling this weekend to Seattle for Colorado’s game against the Sounders on Saturday (4 pm ET, FOX Soccer), but he just might mark his return to the playing field the following weekend for the Rapids’ home game against New England.

Kandji, who has been out of action with a torn ACL sustained on the winning goal in the MLS Cup final last November, played 30 minutes in his first semi-competitive action in a Rapids scrimmage on Wednesday against a side made up of college players.

On Thursday, the lanky attacker played in a full 11-vs.-11 game between the first team and much of the rest of the squad. He said he emerged unscathed and that “everything feels good.”

“Talking to the trainers, I feel good right now,” Kandji said. “I’m just working on my fitness and probably I will be available for New England. If I put the work in, it will happen.”

The long layoff was a frustrating time for Kandji, who joined the Rapids only in September last year and proved a crucial part of the team’s road to MLS Cup success. Through it all, though, he has repeatedly said he wouldn’t have changed anything, and he’s confident he can contribute to the second half of 2011 as the Rapids push towards the playoffs.

“I’m just hoping to come back in and add my little bits and pieces,” he said. “I like taking people on, one-v-one, stuff like that, and so I hope I can help the team out like that.”

One big piece of motivation for Kandji during his rehabilitation was the recent team visit to the White House, where the player received a special mention from President Barack Obama. The honor resonated deeply with Kandji’s family, some of whom openly cried after the shout-out.

“My family has supported me from Day 1,” Kandji said. “Everything that happens to me, I owe to them. I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were crying once they heard [Obama’s words]. My reaction is just motivation. That is the biggest motivation you can have to help you get back.”

Kandji is continuing to work hard on his fitness so he can get back on the field as soon as possible and he said his speed is gradually coming back to where it was before the injury. If the forward is included in the game-day roster against the Revolution, chances are that he will miss the midweek home match against former club New York, a sacrifice he’s more than willing to make as he and the Rapids aim high for the latter part of the season.

“I think we are doing good right now,” Kandji said. “Hopefully we can win another championship and go back and see the President again.”