UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez are the proven heroes, Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo are the rising stars, and Luke Rodgers is the breakout story of 2011 in the land of the New York Red Bulls.
So where does that leave Joel Lindpere? He’s quietly enjoying the best stint of his career.
“I’ve scored some goals, had a lot of assists, been playing so much,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com last week. “I put these two years together, this is the best time of my career. This gives me more, mentally and emotionally, to enjoy this time. You never know when it’s going to end.”
Primarily utilized on the left wing, Lindpere has been industrious on the flank and shown a penchant for scoring goals. He’s got seven this season, in fact, to go with seven assists, a dramatic uptick since his debut MLS season last year of three goals and six assists.
“He has a good team spirit,” assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen said. “Joel is a hard worker, he showed it here last season. He is also dangerous in the 18-yard box, he can score goals.”
There is at least a little concern, however, about Lindpere’s future. He’s playing in his contract year this season and while he’s clearly enjoying his time in MLS, he’s also made it no secret that he would like to play in a top-flight European league.
It helps, though, that the Red Bulls are in the thick of a playoff chase, currently in the ninth playoff spot and just four points off the pace for the potential No. 1 playoff seed from the Eastern Conference.
“I really want to reach the playoffs, but after, we can go on and see what happens,” Lindpere said about his contract. “I think we have a great team and definitely I don’t want to leave the place when I think we have huge potential. I don’t want to leave without winning. We have to see if we win. I’m going to take my decision after the season, so I don’t worry.”
The Red Bulls return to action on Saturday with a huge matchup at Sporting Kansas City, one of six teams in contention for the three automatic playoff spots from the East. The Red Bulls, who bottomed out earlier this summer with an eight-game winless streak that dragged from early July until mid-September, have won three of their last five to revive their playoff hopes.
“I haven’t given up,” Lindpere said. “In my opinion, game day should be fun. Of course it should be hard work, but game day is when you perform. You can have bad games, too, but you must try. We've shown the last few games that we have quality in this team, and we are doing it through hard work.”