UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Wilman Conde has battled nagging injuries all season long, but he is healthy now and on the brink of returning to a place he once called home.
When the New York Red Bulls visit the Chicago Fire this Sunday, the game will mark Conde’s first time back at Toyota Park since leaving Chicago after the 2010 season. Conde is excited about returning to the place where he spent three-plus seasons, but he may be equally as eager to continue to show the Red Bulls he is back to full health.
“I feel really good,” Conde told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “Truth is, since returning to practice a month ago, I feel fully recovered from injuries, knocks and pain. Now I’m just focused on playing and getting as many minutes as possible.”
Conde started and went the distance in both US Open Cup matches the Red Bulls participated in during the past two weeks – his first two games for the club since late March.
He was fairly solid in those fixtures and Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said the Colombian defender has not suffered the type of frustrating setbacks that plagued him at the start of the year.
“He responded well, didn’t pick up any other small injuries,” Backe said. “Just fingers crossed now that he can train every session and play consistently. We [will] have a huge, huge advantage.”
The Red Bulls will be hoping Conde excels in his first MLS game in nearly three months on Sunday, especially since he has suited up only twice during league play this season. And while Conde shares that goal, he is pleased to know he is heading back to the place where his MLS career started.
“I’m happy to go back,” Conde said. “I left behind very good friends in Chicago, including Marco Pappa, and I got along real well with the fans. The situation with Chicago may not have ended in the best manner due to internal matters, but I’m very happy to go back and to play if I can and enjoy the match.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.