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Despite recent scoring outburst, Red Bulls lacking in midfield production

Lindpere (Getty Images)


When a team scores nine goals in two matches, it is difficult to concentrate on the deficiencies in the attack. New York Red Bulls forwards Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper have certainly stolen headlines as the No. 1 and 2 goal scorers in Major League Soccer, respectively. What hasn’t received much attention, however, is the lack of cohesion and production in the club's midfield.

Through four matches this year, the New York midfield has managed only two assists on the team's 10 total goals, both of which came this past weekend against Montreal. Stalwart offensive leaders Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards, who combined for 14 goals and 14 assists last season, have yet to register in either statistical category this year. In Lindpere’s case, that statistical impotence is only made more glaring by the fact that he has not managed to notch a shot on net through four matches.

It is a trouble spot that hasn’t escaped coach Hans Backe. 

"It’s more that they haven’t been themselves compared to last year," Backe said of his wingers. "I would hope that they can bounce back, but it looks too passive, I would think. It’s too many side passes, and back passes when you have the possibility to take them on, it’s just to encourage these guys. In the attacking game, you need to take chances and not only play safe.”

Lindpere's play has been particularly perplexing. He has followed a string of listless performances with a late game substitution this weekend which saw the Estonian limp off the field, heavily favoring his left leg. 

“I actually got three kicks in the same place. Unfortunately, it’s on my leg in a bone area,” Lindpere said. “Three times, same spot, same way. In the last game, my muscle didn’t last and I had to come off. I am practicing, but I am going to be OK.”

The Estonian underwent a sports hernia surgery during the offseason as well. Backe had said that the procedure was minor, and not influencing Lindpere’s game. Instead, the play of both wing midfielders is strictly the product of their own performances.

“No excuses at all,” Backe said. “(Lindpere) just needs to bounce back. I think Joel has picked up in the preseason some hits on his ankles, his calves, and that of course is not 100 percent. Dane, I think he’s that type of player that you never really know what is going to happen. A good day, and he can definitely kill every team, every back four. Another day, he plays more safe, but that’s the type of player he is.”

Neither player disagreed with Backe's assessment.

“I definitely need to lift my game and be more involved,” Lindpere acknowledged, "But also, when you started a long preseason and you lose games, you need to be more worried and see how it combines together. I think it is getting better day by day.”

Added Richards: ”You’re not going to get stats all the time. Just be a good team player and support.  Try to make passes that you have to make. You just have to keep playing. They will come.”

The Red Bulls midfield will be in for a test this weekend against the Columbus Crew, as the oft injured Teemu Tainio, who made a big difference upon entering the game against the Impact, is once again in recovery mode. 

“I think the ankle is quite ok,” Backe said of Tainio’s most recent knock. “It’s more he has picked up a lot of injuries over the past one-and-a-half years. We need to be clever so we handle and manage him.  He doesn’t necessarily have to have five, six sessions a week, so we sit him out.”

To make matters worse, Rafa Marquez was pulled after playing all of 45 minutes against Montreal and has only just begun light jogging and sprinting sessions at today’s training.  Dax McCarty has been the lone saving grace for New York in the middle, but it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that neither Tainio nor Marquez will be fit enough to partner with him for the full 90 minutes against the Crew.


  1. I am a bit perplexed by Lindpere. He’s been an engine in midfield since he got to NY, but looks lost now. Richards is Richards. He’ll be useless for 10 games in a row and then score a couple of goals. I don’t think he’s a great answer at right mid, but RB don’t have many other options right now.

    Dax, Rafa, and Teemu have all looked better in the past couple of games. Injuries are the big concern in CM, as is the question of whether Dax’s last game was an aberration, or will become what we expect going forward. He provided a reasonable approximation of what a creative midfielder should do last time out.

    The RB backline might be more of a concern to me than the midfield. Solli hasn’t been as good going forward this year, Miller continues to be a weak link, and Holgersson looks like he has the touch of a cow. People who wondered why Ream’s touch was a big deal need look no further than Montreal’s first goal last weekend.

  2. Nice add by SBI to add DMart and dig for more hits from the fickle NY market. Re: the article, thought it was public knowledge the NY midfield has been lacking since the days of Guevara and to a lesser extent, Dave VDB, and of course, since we donated DeRo to DC last year.

  3. The pairing of Tainio and Dax worked very well in the second half vs Montreal. I mean, it’s glaringly obvious that Rafa needs to go. The dude dogged it during the first half and dogs it basically all the time. If you don’t want to win, don’t come out to play. I would certainly be happy with a pure, playmaker DP acquisition for center mid. But in the absence of that happening, I think they really need to find a solution for Holgersen (sp?). He was real shaky.
    Scoring hasn’t been the issue; giving up easy goals has been the problem

  4. I don’t know, does it really matter where the production comes from? I couldn’t care less if the goalie scores all the goals, as long as we score more than our opponents.

  5. “Limp”ere looks off this year. He’s might be better off with a walker or a motorized wheelchair. Pains me to say that.

  6. “To make matters worse, Rafa Marquez was pulled after playing all of 45 minutes”

    Don’t you mean, “To make matters much better…”

  7. Lindpere and Richards are both playing as wingers — and way way over to the side. Richards basically plows forward, and rarely do the central mids fill in space to accpet a pass. Lindpere was so wide, and so wide open during the first half of the Montreal game he was uncovered much of the time and didn’t track middle to get the ball (and no one found him either). The issue is that the central mids are not very good offensive players and cheat back. Henry has been doing that sometimes, but that’s not the answer there. Granted, there is nothing wrong with playing down the wings, but the Red Bulls became so predicatable doing that last year it practically killed their season. Lindpere either has to cheat more to the middle or they need to find a real 10 to play there in place of Dax.

  8. Yawn. So the RB wingers are having a slow start. Both are quality players. When Houston goes through slow starts, do they get this much criticism?

    We’re only 4 games into the season. I’d rather these guys be performing super well later into the season, when its more important.

  9. Well, for my money, it’s not the wings who are deficient. Marquez and Dax were having a who-can-get-the-most-turnovers contest last game.

  10. eh dont sweat it….arsenal will finish top 4 with little production from their MF….im not saying ny is the quality of arsenal, but it can be done…


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