As the old adage goes, it takes foreign players and newcomers time to find their feet in the physical confines of Major League Soccer.
For Peguy Luyindula, that adjustment spanned nearly an entire season.
Luckily for Red Bull fans, he finally found his comfort zone just in time for the biggest regular season match in team history.
An unlikely hero, Peguy Luyindula earned Man of the Match honors playing a vibrant attacking midfield role in the Red Bulls 5-2 dismantling of the Chicago Fire. His performance was the culmination of a late season resurrection that gave New York that small push it needed to complete the midfield and earn their first trophy in 18 years.
“Listen, over the last three, four weeks in practice, Peguy has been consistently the best player,” head coach Mike Petke noted. “He’s really retooled certain things and he knows we’re looking at him more as a midfielder because of his ability to hold the ball for us and his vision.”
Luyindula, a Gerard Houllier signing and former star under the Lyon banner, struggled to adjust to the league after spending nearly two years riding the bench in France. His early shortcomings forced Petke to send him back to the pine as the former French National Team player battled to find himself.
As the season progressed, Luyindula’s ability to the hold the ball and distribute in both reserve and training games caught the attention of the club’s technical staff, offering the 34-year-old striker a new hope to reemerge in the starting XI.
“I think that his days as a forward…it’s a very different league here than what he’s used to,” Petke noted. “I think he’s so comfortable on the ball and his vision is so good, and I didn’t think he had the best first 45 minutes of the game, along with almost everybody, but you look at him in Houston, and Seattle particularly, dropping back there, and his ability to turn and play penetrating balls to split the defenders is great, and that’s what we’re looking for; his experience and him potentially spring Thierry and Tim (Cahill) up front.”
While it was Houllier who played a major role in his acquisition, Luyindula has long had the backing of former National Team partner Thierry Henry as well. The Red Bull captain relished in his teammates’ success and was happy he finally earned the chance to succeed.
“It just isn’t that easy not playing four games, playing one, not playing five, playing one,” Henry observed. “Now he is playing a bit more and you can see that.
“I am not surprised,” he continued. “It’s what I have seen him do many times in France and Spain or on the National Team. He is a great player and you can see that. When he has the ball, he controls it well, sees the field well, and his assists today were incredible. For me, I am not surprised. It’s what he always does.”