If the Red Bulls’ preseason stint in Arizona provided fans a short glimpse of what defender Wilman Conde was capable of, then Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids confirmed it - he’s not someone other teams can take lightly.
Conde made his New York debut Sunday at Red Bull Arena and was quick to show a physical side against the Rapids forwards, a number of whom were sent to pick up blades of grass after failed attempts to pass him. In addition to his strong presence in the defensive end, Conde was also quick to show off a bit of an offensive touch as well when he led Thierry Henry in on goal to give the Red Bulls a 3-0 lead. His style of play on both sides of the ball is exactly what head coach Hans Backe was hoping for when the team acquired the Colombian defender during the offseason.
“He’s pacey, he’s technically very good,” Backe said. “He’s a very tough defender winning, I would guess, 90 percent of the 50-50’s, so I think he would just improve all the time. If he can stay fresh and not pick up any injuries now and play competitive games now he will just be, as he was in 2010, one of the best centerbacks in the league.”
While playing for the Chicago Fire, Conde was named to the 2009 MLS Best XI lineup and followed that season up with another strong performance in 2010. He later joined up with Mexican side Atlas in 2011, but suffered an injury that kept him out for all but 13 matches. After the Red Bulls swung a trade that brought him to New York, he joined the club for the first time during the team’s preseason stint in Mexico and immediately entered into a robust three-a-day fitness regimen. He made his preseason debut in Arizona, but suffered a thigh injury that kept him out up until Sunday’s match.
Conde’s overall performance following the few injuries that accrued during the early stages of the season impressed Backe.
“Being out for almost 10 months or something like that and then perform as he did on Sunday, that is massive,” said Backe. “It’s not many players who can perform on that level when you’ve been out for such a long time.”
The Red Bulls return to action Saturday at Red Bull Arena when they host the expansion side Montreal Impact. Tickets start as low as $20! Get yours at Red Bulls Ticket Central or by calling 877.RB.SOCCER.