UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — There is a good possibility that the New York Red Bulls backline will feature Wilman Conde once again this Sunday against the New England Revolution (7 pm ET, Galavision).
It would mark a rare consecutive start for the Colombian center back in what has not been an easy first season with the Red Bulls. He has experienced recurring injury problems and a well-documented off-the-field incident that has limited his playing time to a mere four matches.
Regardless, Conde has shown well the few times he’s donned a Red Bulls jersey. And due to a plethora of injuries to other NYRB center back candidates, Conde is likely to get the nod when New York visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday despite the fact he has skipped all matches played on turf surface this season as a precaution.
“I would say if he’s fresh, we probably have to play him,” Red Bulls manager Hans Backe told reporters earlier in the week. “Otherwise, we could have said that, 'OK, turf is perhaps not the best surface for him.' But with Markus [Holgersson] out, with Heath [Pearce] out, we don’t know question mark Rafa [Márquez], and if Wilman is fresh, which it looks, then he will play.”
Conde is coming off an 82-minute performance in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Toronto FC, his first game in nearly two weeks. And while the 29-year-old admits that his form and fitness are not up to par, he says he feels injury free and is available to play a second straight game regardless of the playing surface.
“I know it’s turf, but it’s not about me not being able to play,” Conde told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s about how I recover and how it will take me a couple days more than normal because of the surgery I had [on the left ankle last year], but we’re prepared for that.”
Conde getting more minutes would not only be a big boost for the injury-riddled Red Bulls, but also for the defender himself. Conde has played just six matches across all competitions this season and the limited action due to the repeated knocks have impacted his form and fitness, which have not returned to the level he showed while with the Chicago Fire from 2007 to 2010.
“It’s the first time I go through all of this, to be honest,” Conde said. “I’m trying to handle the situation as best as I can and it’s obviously not entirely in my hands. But I’m trying to be as smart as possible with it all and taking precautions. Hopefully everything keeps going and I don’t pick up another injury.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.