UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – If Joel Lindpere is to reclaim a starting spot with the New York Red Bulls, it will be as a left midfielder. That’s because head coach Hans Backe doesn't envision him playing anywhere else.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Backe said he started the unfit duo of Teemu Tainio and Tim Cahill over Lindpere in central midfield in the Red Bulls’ 2-1 loss at Houston last Friday because the Estonian is not suited to play there. Lindpere started his tenure with New York in 2010 centrally and he has seen time there sporadically throughout the current campaign. But Backe said Lindpere only played only there this season due to injuries to others forcing his hand.
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“I don’t bother, I don’t care, I couldn’t care less,” Backe said 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 wins 50-50 [balls] 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.”
Asked why he did not start Lindpere out on the left in favor of rookie Connor Lade, Backe said the team he trotted out to the steamy field at BBVA Compass Stadium was the one he thought gave New York the biggest opportunity to big up three points.
“I don’t single out anyone,” said Backe. “This is what I think is the best balance we have and that’s why I started that team.”
And has Lindpere, who is mired in a subpar season, accepted Backe’s message about not being able to play centrally for the Red Bulls?
“He has to, otherwise we trade him,” said a blunt Backe. “Not a problem.”
Sam on trial
Should Lindpere be shipped out his possible replacement, English midfielder Lloyd Sam, took part in the first of what should be several training sessions with the club. Sam, a 27-year-old English midfielder capable of playing wide, is expected to be on trial for at least the next week before a decision is made on whether or not to sign him.
“He played last two seasons for Leeds United and then he was on loan to Notts County,” said Backe. “But that’s where I’ve seen him, with Leeds.”
Sam was out on the right side of the midfield during a full-field scrimmage at the end of practice.
Meara, Márquez expected back Thursday
The Red Bulls could get two steps closer to full health before the end of the week.
Backe said Rafa Márquez (calf) and Ryan Meara (hip) are expected to return to training on Thursday. And the head coach added that his rookie goalkeeper could suit up in next week’s Reserve League game against D.C. United to determine if he is ready to challenge for the starting spot again.
“I don’t know if he’s ready for that but if he starts on Thursday then, if he responds well, should be available for the Monday game against the D.C. reserves,” said Backe. “Then you can see where he is.”
In other injury news, Sébastien Le Toux was absent from Monday’s training session as he underwent surgery on a finger. He will sit out Tuesday’s session and is expected to return on Wednesday.
Wilman Conde and Brandon Barklage did partake in training, doing mostly individual work. Conde actually began the session with the full team, but his oft-injured groin began to give him some discomfort so he went off to the side with a trainer.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com