Friday, January 13, 2012

Are the Red Bulls Close to Signing Wilman Conde?

Is Conde Worth the Price?
Late yesterday evening, Big Apple Soccer's Michael Lewis broke the news that the Red Bulls had purchased the MLS rights of Wilman Conde from Chicago Fire. Lewis' story, citing an anonymous source, indicated that the Red Bulls would be sending a draft pick Chicago's way in return. This morning, however, Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives (in the midst of gleefully teeing off on his favorite target) disputed Lewis' account, claiming that Conde's rights would command a six figure allocation, presumably part of the proceeds from the pending sale of Tim Ream to Bolton Wanderers. 

The Red Bulls are without a draft selection in 2013, having traded away their first and second round picks to Portland and Kansas City, respectively. If Galarcep is correct, presumably the Fire have no interest in a pick beyond 2013. The question then becomes, "Is Conde worth a six figure allocation?" Galarcep certainly doesn't seem to think so, going so far as to call the Colombian a "flop" at Mexican club Atlas.

But it's not an easy question to answer. With Ream gone, the Red Bulls will have a burning need to fill a gap at center back. Relying on either Rafa Marquez or Stephen Keel to step into Ream's shoes would really be playing with fire (no pun intended). Using part of the $650,000 allocation that will result from the sale to Bolton, it makes sense to secure the services of an experienced, physical MLS defender like Conde, who was probably one of the league's best before an indifferent 2010 and an injury-plagued spell in 2011 with Atlas. At his best, Conde is an imposing figure and a very tough customer. He has an MLS pedigree, understands what the league is all about and wouldn't require a period of adjustment.

This morning I spoke with my friend Kevin McCauley, who runs the great SBNation Mexican soccer blog FMF State of Mind about Conde's time in Mexico and he offered his views:
Conde only "flopped" at Atlas because he got injured and the team sucked. He was Chicago Conde when he played. No more, no less. He looked very good at times, and made a couple of dumb errors. He'll have five great games in a row, and in the sixth game, he'll do something so dumb you can't believe he's an international footballer. That's who he is.
The sale of Tim Ream gives the Red Bulls plenty of allocation money, but it also makes it imperative that they bring in an adequate replacement before the season kicks off. If they can coax Conde back into his 2009 form and pair him with new signee Markus Holgersson, it's hard to see how that's a worse situation than an opening day center back pairing of Ream and Stephen Keel. With trade options inside MLS limited and international transfers taking time and effort to consummate, paying a premium for Conde may be Erik Solér's best option.

With the addition of Cooper and Conde, two of the league's better players three or four years removed, the Red Bulls are throwing the dice and hoping that their best form returns. Neither move is without risk, but if successful both could have a massive upside. If they fail miserably, many around the league and in the news media will have a field day. At least you can't accuse Solér of timidity.
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