When the starting XI was announced for New York’s encounter against Sporting KC three weeks ago, there was one name that seemed grossly out of position. The 6’2″ burly Colombian defender Wilman Conde made the lineup – but at left-back.
Two weeks later, Conde took ownership of the spot by scoring an emphatic game tying notch at RFK that even took him by surprise.
“I’ve watched that goal more than 50 times,” he said, “and I have to ask myself how I hit that ball so well!”
Conde’s move to the defensive wing was akin to the type of mix and match tactics that made former Red Bull coach Juan Carlos Osorio famous around these parts. What wasn’t known is Conde’s actual familiarity in the position.
And wouldn’t you know it? It was Osorio that first introduced him to the fullback spot.
“I first played on the left with Coach Osorio for the first time in Millionarios,” he explained. “Then when I came to the Fire in 2007, I also played left back, left midfield and central midfield. With Coach Dennis Hamlet in 2008-09, I played a few games in that position as well. It’s not an unfamiliar position for me. Obviously, my usual position is as a left centerback but the transition has been a bit easier to make.
“In both games I have played there, I have felt well. My teammates have supported me well there and I felt that. It facilitates my work a lot. I am happy about that. It’s all about working, to get better and give your best and hope that it continues.”
Comfortable or not, Conde’s journey to the left hasn’t been an easy one. His 2012 season with the Red Bulls has been shrouded in physical set backs after being out of soccer for nearly a year. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and this opportunity at left back opened up and I hope to do it to the best of my abilities and try to end the season playing,” he said. “The most important thing for me has been trying to regain my form from years past. It was about playing, getting my rhythm back. Each match has given me a bit more.”
His last set back cost him his starting centerback role. In the midst of a humid and uncomfortable match in Houston, the Colombian defender took himself out of the match. Reporters on the sideline were told there was no injury to report, but that was only part of the story.
“I asked for a change because I felt pain in my adductor,” he said. “I was in therapy that week for it, had 3,4 days to treat it and I didn’t get a chance to train. I only had one day of training the day before the (Houston) match.
“It was more of a precaution,” he explained. “If I would have pushed it, I felt something bad would happen. It happened before because I refused to leave the game in the final minutes. I got hurt and was left out of the lineup. I didn’t want that to happen again.
“Thank God, I am finally finding my fitness. I’ve counted on the blessings of God and I’ve played the last few games without any issues. I’ve been training well after the break so I hope that it continues that way to close out the season.”