By DAVE MARTINEZ
HARRISON, N.J. — New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere just hasn’t been himself.
The Estonian standout, who compiled eight goals and five assists through a total of 37 games last season, has failed to register a single shot on goal through four starts and seven appearances; an effort that has cost him a starting spot with the team.
“I’m concerned, I must say,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said of Lindpere's struggles. “He’s been one of the most, probably with Roy Miller, the guy who has started every game for two years, being involved in 15-16 points in goals and assists (in 2011) and of course he’s a key player for us.
So what could be the problem? "I don’t have the answer," Backe said. "I just have the feeling, as I told him – go forward. Show me an end product. I don’t care if you lose 1-v-1 but attack, attack, attack more. It has been a little too much of a safe play with back passes, side passes instead of turning, take them on 1-v-1. Hopefully we can tell him, 'Come on, be the attacking guy you used to be.'”
For Lindpere, who looks set to return to the starting lineup on Saturday vs. New England due to injuries, the answer lies a bit deeper than that.
“If I compare myself to different types of players, I’ve never been for this team like a runner or somebody," Lindpere said. "I want to get the ball and I like to play with the ball and if this has been excuse that I’m not so aggressive attacking, so then I can stay sometimes 10 minutes out wide without getting the ball. That’s what I can’t change.
“I am one of the veterans of the team, and when you keep (getting) left out of the team and off the wings and the team is not winning then I ask myself, ‘Why? What have I done wrong?’ If I don’t get the explanation there, it’s sad.”
Lindpere started the team’s opening four games of the year. During the second home match against the Montreal Impact, he limped off of the pitch in the 68th minute after sustaining three separate knocks to the same area of his leg. In the three games since, Backe has given Mehdi Ballouchy the nod over the Estonian mainstay in his former left wing position.
In Lindpere’s mind, injuries had little to do with the decision.
“If the coach leaves you out after two great homes wins, just out of the squad, then I just need to keep my head up and do what I can do,” Lindpere said. “I am always there on the field doing everything for the team. It hasn’t been maybe the best start for me but, Kenny (Cooper) and (Thierry) Henry are scoring – who else has a wonderful start here? I think we are one team and we need to fix up all these things.
“My legs are bleeding, but I haven’t missed a single practice this year. In general, when I came here, I haven’t missed a single practice, so every practice I’ve been there and practicing with the team regularly. That tells a lot.”
With Ballouchy enjoying a decent run on the left wing, Lindpere suggested other areas of the pitch where he could contribute.
“I was hoping to play maybe in the center (midfield),” he said, “and suddenly, it was not even a story.”
Backe not only did not consider Lindpere as a central midfield option, he stated last Sunday after the team's loss to D.C. United that Lindpere had never played in central midfield for the Red Bulls and would only be a viable option in the middle of a five-man midfield.
“I played here 2010 the whole season in the center and I loved it," Lindpere said. "Last year, I was at the left wing. So for this team, I think we have players who play for the center and I need to fight for the wing place.
“I’m going on the field and giving everything that I can. If this is not enough, I can’t do anything. I am always there for the team, and I like to play with the ball. That’s my game. And if you don’t get the ball, how can you attack more?”
For now, the Estonian international can only press on to try and turn his fortunes around.
“I keep my head up, I’m practicing every day, I haven’t missed a single practice this year," Lindpere said. "I’m trying to be positive.
“I’m a team player, so I’m not worried. I can play in defense too if I have to,” Lindpere said with a laugh. “I’m kidding, but the thing is this; I like to play with the ball, and what’s more fun in the game then having the ball and playing with your own teammates and giving the good pass to your own teammate?
"Lately, if you see that after two passes we give the ball away and we chase the ball and just start running. It’s not my game."
With injuries ravaging the Red Bulls defense and midfield, and Rafa Marquez suspended for two more matches, New York is facing a stretch of games without a handful of starters. It will be a chance for new players to step up, and an opportunity for Lindpere to regain the form that once made him the Red Bulls most consistent and reliable player.
Lindpere isn't the only Red Bulls player struggling, and between underperforming starters and injured ones, New York is in jeopardy of another slide like the one they suffered last season in the middle of the year. For Lindpere's part, he believes the team can avoid that fate.
“I think we just need to play as a team," Lindpere said. "Play football, play regular football as we used to do. That’s very simple. We need to play, be available and pass the ball.”
That’s quite a bit of speculation, Hans, er, I mean Eugene.
Lindpere is RBNY’s best midfielder. That hasn’t changed. A dip in form, maybe, but the whole team, except for Henry, has been poor. If there is one player who shouldn’t be made the scapegoat, it’s Lindpere.
he’d look good in any other team kit
No CAM…same problem since De Ro left. They rely soley on Rafa for offense from central midfield. They are lost when he is out.
Totally agree. Lindpere, more than anybody, is the heart of this team. There have been some pretty low moments over the last two years but never once could you say Joel was dogging it. The guy gives it 110% every game. The production will come. He needs to be on the field.
Backe is once again off target here. Sometimes I don’t know what game he is watching. A coaching change is long overdue
+1. The Red Bull brand — beverage, futbol, sports, etc — is forever diminished in many minds as a result of the management of this team, and Austra’s tolerance of Soler/Backe’s complete incompetence. These guys continue to be the most expensive under performers in the history of MLS. Incredible that a global brand continues to be associated with such failure… This is IK Start all over again.
Building a $200 million stadium is not caring? Investing in DP players at millions of dollars per salary, all while the franchise is losing money, is not caring? Red Bull is not nearly the problem. This team is doing much better now than they have in previous administrations, they just have to work through the short-term problem. But honestly, for a team that’s made the play-offs for the last 2 years while other teams (i.e., Toronto) have yet to make them, as a NYRB fan, I’m not complaining.
Lindpere has not been himself, not his usual performer from last year. Backe has it right 100%.
In baseball, there is some cliche that once you get a hot girlfriend you start losing your knees. Lindpere has a hot girlfriend. I’m not sure how long he’s been with her… but his performances are definitely suffering. He was much hungrier when he first came to NY, and not just to play football, he wanted to visit all 50 states. Now he’s said on camera that he doesn’t even want to do that. I believe his complacency is not so much because of his nature, but likely due to his current life set up.
I can’t think of a NYRB player who has been better over the past 2 years than Lindpere – dude’s a bulldog in there. let him play through his bad form – he’ll work it out
The sooner Hans Backe is fired, the better.
Lindpere the last couple games he played was slow and ineffective. Not sure why he got lethargic but I would have benched him too. He’s not the reason for the shaky defending in the box but not having a target on the wing is not good.
I’m around more sanity when I volunteer at the Alzheimer’s facility. That’s not a f’ing joke either. That’s literally what crossed my mind and how I feel.
Lindpere should be used centrally. Dax McCarty is ordinary and will always be so, a solid guy to have in the mix but not someone you hand the keys to your offense.
Yes, he was. Backe, as the others have pointed out, is a moron. And as it turns out, not a particularly good evaluator of talent or man manager. He has shipped out more decent players than he has brought in. He and the GM are clueless, and the NY fans deserve much better.
Agree 100%. Over the hill stars have been the ruin of this franchise since day 1 of the league. [Henry is the exception to the rule]
And ship out Marquez at the same time. I’m tired of his antics and laziness embarasing the team.
MLS messed up the NYRB franchise so badly. You want to gain interest? How about not selling to a company who doesn’t care, hires incompetents and then refuses to fire them.
Backe is a long time and fervent apologist of his defenders yet extra demanding (on the verge of demeaning even) of his offensive players.
Somethin kinda strange about it
FIRE HANS BACKE… simple
They can probably sign him to some sort of pre-contract that will take effect in the summer window.
lindpere got off to a slow start. But with Henry and Cooper socring, he didn’t need to score. If he was scoring and Henry wasn’t, would backe have benched Henry? I don’t think so. And when Lindpere came off the bench, beat his mark and got an assist, it should of been the end of him on the bench. He should be starting somewhere on the pitch. Richards has been useless this year and he’s still starting. Why?
Wasn’t Backe the coach who played Lindpere centrally for a season?
Benching Lindpere was arguably justified, given his performance. But refusing even to consider him for a spot in the central midfield — based partly on the demonstrably false notion that he hasn’t played there for RBNY — is simply foolish. Regardless of Lindpere’s recent sttuggles, if Backe rates Victor Palsson over Joel Lindpere in the center of the park, his weakness as an evaluator of talent goes well beyond the Markus Holgersson issue.
NO NO NO NO.
NO more 36-year-old legendary defenders in MLS! Seriously, I will buy a Cosmos jersey the day this is announced.
transfer window is closed.
TESING 1, 2, 3…
+1 “Backe is a complete fool.”
another DCU fan here, and I agree. Unless something’s going on that nobody knows about, I don’t see how Dax is starting over Lindpere at center.
Yea, i can mayyyyyybe see starting Ballouchy over Lindpere outside…but McCarty or especially wack-a## Palsson over Lindpere centrally??? MADNESS i tell you. Madness.
Not sure if it has been already mentioned here, but Corriere de la Serra confirmed that Alessandro Nesta will sign for the Red Bulls in the next few days.
I wouldn’t say that he had no reason. Lindpere has looked out of shape and tired for most of the season so far. He was the best player over the last 2 years and given the current injury concerns I see no reason not to play him centrally. If Backe really does trot out a McCarty/Ballouchy pairing expect a 5 to6 goal drubbing this weekend.
Agreed! From many of Backe’s decisions it’s obvious that Backe is not a good evaluator of talent!
Lindpere was tremendous in the center in 2010. He was excellent both ways. He created attacks and was a bulldog on defense. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t get the chance to establish himself there now. Playing Palsson over Lindpere is absurd.
He has not been struggling, Backe is just a moron.
Here is a guy who thinks Holgersson is playing well (reminder: Holgersson has given up more goals this year than Cooper has scored for the team) and benches the best player on the team for two seasons running for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
It’s that simple, there is no need for further discussion or argument. Backe is a complete fool.
As a DC United fan, I have o say that I like Dax…as a person. He’s not bad as a DM, either. If, however, you’re counting on him to run the offense, don’t expect a dynamic attack. That’s not Dax. If Backe wants an offense that runs at other teams, he’s gonna need another guy centrally. Where’s he gonna find that guy? I dunno, but Lindpere sounds like a better option.
Linpere doesn’t have the speed to play on the left. He has great skill, good passing, good shooting and good through balls. He should definately play in the middle.