Wilman Conde was supposed to be the answer to the New York Red Bulls' concerns in the center of defense. But his return to full health has suffered a setback and the veteran center back will miss the next two to three weeks with a strained thigh.
Conde picked up the injury and had to be removed early in the first half of the Red Bulls’ 2-1 preseason win over the LA Galaxy in their third game of the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday night. Conde had recently returned to the field after recovering from a severe ankle injury sustained in 2011.
“He looked OK, but picked up this [injury] after 17, 18 minutes,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. “When you’ve been away that long, typically you pick up these kind of injuries.”
With the Colombian defender on the shelf for New York’s season opener on March 11 against FC Dallas, it is likely that Stephen Keel and Markus Holgersson will start in central defense.
Meara suffers broken bone
Another Red Bulls player to suffer an injury in Wednesday night’s game was projected starting goalkeeper Ryan Meara. Unlike Conde, the rookie out of Fordham could still be healthy enough to play in the opener.
“He will not play on Saturday [in final preseason friendly vs. Real Salt Lake], but he will be ready for our sessions at the beginning of next week,” said Backe.
Asked where the rookie, who's shown so well thus far in his nascent career, could improve, Backe pointed out that Meara needs to be stronger. Overall, however, the Swede was more complimentary of Meara than not.
“The thing that has impressed is that being that young, he’s so composed,” said Backe. “He doesn’t try the spectacular. Very, very solid. He’s hardworking on every training session. He has a regular kick and that [6-foot-4] size is good against crosses and he has good feet.”
Looking forward to RSL
New York will wrap up their preseason with a match against RSL on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., and Backe is happy about that opportunity despite having to play RSL in the second week of the regular season.
The Red Bulls are 0-3-1 against RSL in league games since Backe took over in 2010, and they have already lost to Jason Kreis’ men earlier this preseason, suffering a 1-0 loss in their first game of the Desert Diamond Cup.
“They will stick to their playing style,” Backe said. “We try to do the same, but we probably need to change something when we play Salt Lake because we never win against them. For us, just good to play them twice and see if we can learn.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.