BY ERIC GIACOMETTI
Hans, Hans, Hans… what are we gonna do with you? As if the gaffer doesn’t get enough flak from the fans about his lack of substitutions and poor player management, among other things, he’s now gone after fan-favorite and former Team MVP Joel Lindpere!
And perhaps the worst part of it all is… he may be right.
Speaking with the Post’s Brian Lewis, Backe hardly minced his words when speaking about the Estonian.
“I don’t bother, I don’t care, I couldn’t care less,” quipped Backe when asked about Lindpere stating his desire earlier this year to play in the middle. “It doesn’t work centrally. He’s more of a wide player who can tuck in in the attacking game. He’s not a guy who can win 50-50’s and put pressure on midfield. He’s a guy who needs time and space on the ball and then create for crosses and one-twos and things like that.”
When asked if Lindpere had accepted that he is not an option at central midfield, Backe stated,
“He has to. Otherwise we trade him. That’s not a problem. He can’t play central….We’ve done it but then when we’ve had injuries.”
Talk about some strong words.
The last time I checked in with everyone’s favorite Scandinavian, I wondered aloud where his form had gone, and when we would see his return to grace. Back then, my solution to his dip in form was to slot him back into the middle of the park where he spent the majority of his 2010 campaign. Seems like that’s no longer an option, is it Hans?
Whether you like it or not, Hans may be right. While I don’t necessarily like that he used the media to get his point across, the fact remains that Joel simply hasn’t been himself this year. After cashing in on a hefty extension at the conclusion of 2011, the hard-working Lindpere hasn’t quite found the form that endeared him to so many New York fans. Given the addition of Tim Cahill and the return of Teemu Tainio, perhaps Joel’s role is no longer at central midfield. And while Lindpere may not be too excited about it, there’s no question that rookie Connor Lade has outperformed him. If Lindpere is the team player that we all know him to be, he will accept his new role, even if it doesn’t include seeing his name in the starting XI.
Although Lindpere prefers to play centrally, we’ve seen him put in some “rather decent” shifts on the left flank as well. While Lade has been superior thus far, Backe may use the two in tandem on the left side of midfield. If it were up to me, I would still start Lindpere (despite his down season) if only for the fact that Lade has shown a propensity to come off the bench and provide a spark for New York when they lacked punch.
There are some who are suggesting that we trade Lindpere now and cut our losses. After all, this is a business, and decisions aren’t made based on past performances, but rather a “what have you done for me lately” basis. But I’m still not convinced that Lindpere is done. His tenacity and hard work have always been his best attributes, and that’s not something that you’ll see in the stat books. However, if you’d like to point to the stats, Lindpere is third on the team in goals (3) and second in assists (5)… so there’s that.
Whatever happens, let’s just hope that Joel figures it out. Last time, I said that New York’s 2012 hopes hinged greatly on his performance this season. With new personnel scattered throughout the squad, Lindpere’s role certainly has changed but he’s still equally as crucial to New York’s run for the Cup.