Commerce City, Colo. – Macoumba Kandji knows he’s a wanted man, again. The Rapids had been interested in him for some time, and on Tuesday they acquired the Senegalese-born forward from the New York Red Bulls for Mehdi Ballouchy.
“Coming to Colorado is going to be a new beginning,” said Kandji by phone from New York on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to coming over there and doing whatever I can to help the team, because I just want to play football.”
Kandji joined New York on loan from lower division-side Atlanta Silverbacks two years ago this week. He made his MLS debut against the Rapids on September 28, 2008 at Giants Stadium, replacing Dane Richards in the 65th minute.
Colorado forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings combine for four goals that day in a 5-4 road win for the Rapids. Kandji registered what appeared to be the game-tying assist to Michael Mbuta in the 74th minute, only to see Casey win it off a pass from Ballouchy in the final minute of play.
His ‘new beginning’ in MLS will now see him on the same side as both Cummings and Casey.
“Omar is a very good player, and so is Conor Casey,” said Kandji. “So I’m just going to go there and try to add to what they bring to the table, and hopefully that will help us get in to the playoffs.”
The Red Bulls bought Kandji’s contract outright prior to the 2009 season, and there were a lot expectations for the 25-year old. In 20 starts last year, he scored four goals and added five assists as both a forward and wide player.
But after overcoming a few injuries earlier this season, his time became limited after NY signed former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Thierry Henry. Still, Kandji considers the time spent with the Frenchman invaluable.
“It benefitted me 110 percent to play with (Juan Pablo) Angel and Thierry Henry,” said Kandji. “I learned a lot, a lot, a lot from those players, but not only them, from all the players we had there. (Henry) spoke to me day in, day out and I’ll take all those things he taught me to use on the field.”
Colorado and New York are each currently in position to make the post-season, although neither team has secured their place. Kandji, who played in the 2008 MLS Cup final for the Red Bulls, knows the Rapids were looking to bring in a player that can help them return to the playoffs.
“I’m definitely going to do everything I can to help them get there,” said Kandji. “I want to compete, I want to be in the playoffs, and I want to go far in the playoffs.”
A lot has happened for him in soccer since arriving to the United States.
“It’s been a very fast and exciting ride, and I don’t regret any of it,” said Kandji. “Coming from Gambia to high school to junior college to Atlanta to New York and now to Colorado, it’s been a very fast ride and I hope to keep it going.
“It’s all about hard work and what you want in life and if you work hard you can achieve. Since I came to the U.S. I put that in the back of my head and am following it.”