Wilman Conde may have been the one celebrating his 30th birthday on Wednesday, but he was the one giving the New York Red Bulls the best of gifts.
Trailing 2-1 to rivals D.C. United in a match that seemed destined to slip away from the Red Bulls after they had initially led, Conde put forth some late-game heroics by blasting a right-footed screamer from 23 yards out to pull New York level and give them a draw in their second straight road game.
The goal was Conde’s first as a Red Bulls player and capped a second consecutive impressive outing for the Colombian at left back, a position he hadn’t played much of in recent years.
“I had played there a few times for Denis Hamlett while with the Chicago Fire,” he told reporters after the match. “It’s a position that I know. Obviously after two, three years without playing there, you have to get the rhythm back and pay attention. But I’ve felt comfortable and, thankfully, we’ve gotten good results.”
Conde’s contributions at left back were not only limited to his equalizing finish. He was stout defensively, just as he was in this past Sunday’s 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City, and he helped negate United fullback Andy Najar for much of the match Wednesday night.
Conde even offered a glimpse of what was to come earlier in the match, as he pushed forward into the final third on one play before unleashing a tame shot that went wide of Unied netminder Bill Hamid’s goal.
Still, he made no mistake when it counted and punished United with his weaker foot in a game that further established Conde as a real possibility to claim the Red Bulls’ starting left back spot.
“Not only at the end of the game, he was probably one of our best players at left back,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “It’s great to see he adapts so quick from being a center back his whole life to play left back. He played overall, over 90 minutes, very good.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United 2, New York 2