HARRISON, N.J. – Péguy Luyindula enjoys playing in a central midfield role, so much so that he recently called it his childhood love. But those good feelings haven't produced much in the way of results in the opening weeks, as Luyindula has yet to earn a start from that position.
Through the New York Red Bulls’ three games this season, the French veteran has yet to be given the nod in the spot that he thrived in late last year. Luyindula had been moved from his customary forward role to a central midfield spot towards the end of 2013 regular season, and his skill on the ball and passing from there added a dimension to a Red Bulls attack that was sorely missing for much of last year and drew rave reviews from head coach Mike Petke.
In spite of that and the fact that he played in the midfield for much of this past preseason, Luyindula has yet to crack the lineup from that spot. He started in the season opener for New York in Vancouver, but did so in a withdrawn forward role due to the absence of Thierry Henry.
“Yes, I was a little bit because I played all the preseason at that spot,” Luyindula said Friday when asked if he was surprised by lack of starts in the midfield. “Then we played on the turf which Thierry [Henry] cannot play on and I was put on the forward spot. It was OK, I knew it before the game, but I was expecting more to play in the midfield spot.”
Petke recently stated that finding the starting lineup that best works together has been a challenge for him this season, and that might explain why Luyindula has yet to earn a start in the central midfield role that the 34-year-old veteran grew up playing before being moved to forward once he turned pro.
That could change on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena when the Red Bulls host Chivas USA (3 pm ET, UniMas), especially since New York have admittedly struggled to create quality chances consistently.
“We have two ways to play,” said Luyindula. “We don’t play the same at home as away. At home, we have to more build the game and that’s where an attacking midfielder has to find his way to fit in the system.”
Luyindula added that he feels much better now than he did a year ago. He was signed by the Red Bulls late in their 2013 preseason and as a result struggled to find a rhythm once the games became more meaningful.
Those rough outings led to much criticism from fans and media, who both now have largely embraced his qualities and are questioning why he has not been included in the Red Bulls lineup.
For his part, Luyindula is ready to prove his worth again. He is just waiting for his chance to do so.
“You have to find your place in the team and in the squad,” he said. “I think I find my place now and I’m just fighting to start all the games.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.