BY ERIC GIACOMETTI
Team MVP. Fan favorite. A walking embodiment of hard work and grit.
So where is this guy, anyway?
Amidst a disappointing home draw against San Jose and yet another bout of Rafa’s antics, the play of New York’s most consistent player over the last two years has gone unnoticed to many. Since everyone else seems to be ignoring it, I’ll be the one to go ahead and say it; Joel Lindpere has been depressingly mediocre.
Put down your pitchforks, everyone. I’m not looking to pick on the guy, but his dip in form has been undeniable. We’ve seen slow starts from the Estonian international before, but never to this extent. So much so, in fact, that Coach Hans Backe decided to insert the much-maligned Moroccan Mehdi Ballouchy into the starting XI. After losing his starting spot, Lindpere vowed to work even harder during training throughout the week leading up to the San Jose match to no avail. Ballouchy was once again slotted on the left wing as Lindpere was relegated to a role off the bench.
Against Columbus, he came on and bagged an assist on Henry’s second goal of the afternoon. But against the Quakes, it was a different story. He looked lost and roamed the midfield aimlessly. Of course, that’s not to say that the rest of the team wasn’t completely outplayed in the second half – they absolutely were. Fair or not, we’ve grown accustomed to holding Lindpere to a higher standard than most, and he’s simply not living up to it.
The most alarming play for me came after his introduction in the 62nd minute, when Lindpere collected a ball in the midfield. He picked up his head, panicked, and sent a weak pass in the general direction of Henry that lost possession for New York. Lindpere has always been a player that showed composure on the ball, but seemed unsure of himself on Saturday.
Now, unlike the folks down at Occupy Wall Street, I don’t just point out the problems; I offer solutions. Why not slot Lindpere into the center of the park, where he played a part of the 2010 campaign? He’s been vocal in stating his preference of playing on the left wing, but right now, Ballouchy is outperforming him. With the beleaguered Rafa likely facing a suspension and Teemu Tainio already down with yet another injury, the central midfield position is a thin one for New York. When paired with a newly rejuvenated Dax McCarty, the Red Bulls would have two workhorse midfielders that could cover ground box to box, alternating between holding and attacking positions.
Backe doesn’t have much to lose by giving it a shot, given his only other option at the moment is young Victor Palsson, who failed to impress in his start against Real Salt Lake.
In order for the Red Bulls to succeed in 2012, they need the Joel Lindpere of old. For the sake of the team, let’s hope he makes his return sooner rather than later.