UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – As the New York Red Bulls trained for the first time since their weekend loss to Real Salt Lake, one player’s presence on the practice field was easily notable.
Wilman Conde (above) returned to the training field with New York’s first team on Tuesday morning after having missed the last several weeks with a thigh strain picked up in the preseason. The Colombian center back took part in all of the team’s drills, and head coach Hans Backe thinks Conde could be ready for his first taste of action in this weekend’s game against the Colorado Rapids.
“He will probably be available,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “Let’s see how he responds. He trained this weekend with eight, ten guys. Now we have a lot of sessions before the Sunday game.”
There's still a chance that Conde does not suit up for Sunday’s home opener at Red Bull Arena (4 pm ET, ESPN), however. And it's not necessarily the thigh that will be the cause.
“I think his thigh is not a problem,” said Backe. “I think it’s more ankle, so that doesn’t swell up."
Conde had surgery on his ankle last year and missed most of the season with Atlas of the Mexican Primera.
Solér mum on Ballack situation
Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér found himself in the crosshairs of the agent for former German international and potential MLS target Michael Ballack on Tuesday, but he steered clear of stoking the fire.
Ballack's agent, Michael Becker, told the German media that Solér was "clueless" for considering Ballack a holding midfielder and rating Aston Villa’s Stephen Ireland ahead of him in the pecking order for potential summer moves to New York.
“Since I was here the first day, on principle I don’t talk about players I don’t have. It’s a free world, people can say what they like," Solér said Tuesday. "That’s all I want to say, I have no comment at all. I’m not commenting on anything with regards to players that don’t play for us.”
Backe expects Rodgers decision Wednesday
The seemingly never-ending Luke Rodgers visa situation could finally reach a resolution on Wednesday. At least Backe believes so.
“I think we’ll have a definite answer tomorrow,” Backe said. “Hopefully we get a yes or no, so we know.”
Backe reiterated that while the club has no set backup plan for Rodgers (right), there would be options to find a replacement should his visa get denied.
“We said that we should stay a little bit calm and wait and see before we do anything,” Backe said. “But of course, we will have money if it’s a no, we will have a foreign spot if it’s a no, so definitely look into it.”
Tainio sits out of traning
One player who did not partake in Tuesday morning’s training session was Teemu Tainio. The Finnish midfielder was held out of practice to continue to recover from the right ankle injury he sustained in the first half of the Red Bulls’ loss to Real Salt Lake.
“It’s a heavy bruise,” Backe said. “He felt much better today. I would guess earliest Friday we can see if he is available.”
Tainio suffered the knock on a challenge from Luis Gil in the first half on Saturday, and was replaced at halftime by Mehdi Ballouchy.
Happy to be home
Both of the Red Bulls’ losses to open the season came on the road, and the club believes playing in front of its home crowd at Red Bull Arena for the home opener this weekend will help them get back to winning ways.
The club finished 8-3-6 at home last season. They’ll host Montreal on March 31.
“Now coming home, to the home opener, having two games [at home], that will help a lot,” Backe said. “We will just have to show that we are almost unbeatable at Red Bull Arena.”