Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls
By DAVE MARTINEZ
Wilman Conde is likely to miss the New York Red Bulls' season opener, according to coach Hans Backe.
The Colombian defender, who just made his return to action after nearly an 11-month absence from the game, limped off the field Wednesday night in the midst of New York’s 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Desert Diamond Cup.
"Wilman had a small sprain in his thigh, about two centimeters," Backe revealed in a conference call Thursday afternoon. "It's not a big one, but in my experience, I guess he will be two, three weeks out."
The coach put Conde's injury into perspective, stating he was "not that surprised" the defender pulled up lame after such an extended absence.
"When you're away that long, you typically pick up those kind of injuries," Backe said.
Stephen Keel came off the bench to replace Conde, and he will likely line up alongside Markus Holgersson for the Red Bulls' final Desert Diamond Cup match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Though the injury is an obvious concern, it is of note that it was a right thigh strain, perhaps alleviating concerns that his surgically repaired left foot had been re-aggravated. Nevertheless, Conde's absence on the backline may create yet another void for the Red Bulls to fill with less than 10 days to their first match of the season.
Here are a few more notes regarding the Red Bulls:
RODGERS STILL WAITS FOR VISA
Luke Rodgers continues to be in limbo.
The British striker is still awaiting a meeting that will determine whether he secures his visa that will enable him to return to the United States and play for the Red Bulls this season.
Rodgers has a meeting at the English embassy set for March 8. In the meantime, the Red Bulls have arranged for the diminutive striker to train with Aston Villa in anticipation of his potential arrival stateside.
MEARA BREAKS NOSE, IS LIKELY STARTER
MLS SuperDraft second-round pick Ryan Meara broke his nose during the match against the Galaxy picking up the injury after a collision in the second half. Even though he was hurt, he went on to play the full 90 minutes. Backe plans on resting Meara for this Saturday's match against RSL.
Gutsy performances like that have put the New York native ahead in the race to be the Red Bulls' opening-day starter.
"You could say that Ryan Meara has played most of the games and likely the first lineup. Perhaps he is a little bit in front of Jeremy Vuolo," Backe revealed. "But they have done well, two young goalies. There's a lot of pressure, going from Fordham University and coming into MLS – it's a lot of pressure. (Meara) seems to be a very confident guy. We'll see.
"I think what has impressed me is that being so young, (Meara) is so composed," Backe said. "Doesn't play spectacular. Very, very solid. He's a hard worker in every training session. He has a very good kick. He has size. He is good against crosses."
Considering the form of both keepers, the coach said they were in no rush to find an experienced net minder before the season opener.
"Because they have done so well, Meara and Jeremy, perhaps we should stay a bit more calm and see the first month how it works out," a patient Backe suggested. "It's a long, long season. It will not be decided in the beginning. Let's see how these guys will handle it and give them the confidence."
LADE IMPRESSES BACKE
One player who has drawn a lot of media attention this offseason has been Homegrown Player Connor Lade. The 5-foot-6 defender has been a force on both the defensive and distributive sides; a fact that was clearly not lost on Backe.
"He's a huge revelation for me," Backe said. "I'm half shocked probably, with a player coming from college, playing that composed. He's totally uncompromising in his game, good decision making most of the time."
Lade was the Red Bulls' first acquisition of the offseason; a Homegrown player signing. The academy product and former St. John's star has impressed the coaching staff early and often and may push Roy Miller at left back for minutes come opening day.
"He looks like French national team (defender) Bixente Lizarazu; the same size, two good feet, very precise," Backe said. "I like his passing game, battling in the air. It’ll be very interesting to follow this guy."
This is high praise from Backe, whom is rarely known to speak so highly of such a young, American prospect. For those unfamiliar, Lizarazu was the starting back for the French national team during its legendary championship run in the 1998 World Cup and a fixture with Bayern Munich from 1997-2004 (winning six championships with the team).
NEWS AND NOTES
- Backe was praisworthy over the play of Thierry Henry after the victory over the Galaxy. "He came out flying," Backe said. "I wonder if this is perhaps the best I've seen him since he arrived to us. His pace, dropping down (into the midfield) and driving; he still has a lot of pace." Of the preseason performance Backe noted that "this was probably one of his best games so far; lively … on fire."
- Backe dismissed any ideas that the team would look to cut players ahead of the roster compliance deadline. Currently, New York has 21 out of a possible 30 roster slots officially occupied for the coming season.
- Red Bulls past and present were quite busy during yesterday's FIFA leap day fixture date. Juan Agudelo headed home the opening goal against Mexico en route to a 2-0 victory for the US Under-23 side. … Joel Lindpere earned an assist as Estonia achieved a 2-0 victory over El Salvador. … Roy Miller went the full 90 as Costa Rica took a 1-0 victory over Wales at Cardiff City Stadium for the Gary Speed Memorial match. … Rafa Marquez featured for Mexico as they lost a stunner to Colombia 2-0. …Former Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul shut down South Africa as an experimental Senegalese squad managed to tie an attacking Bafana Bafana 0-0.