UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe may have been surprisingly blunt while answering questions about Joel Lindpere on Monday, but the Estonian midfielder insists that their relationship is just fine.
A day after Backe told reporters he could not care less about Lindpere’s preference to play as a central midfielder, Lindpere said he did not have any issues with his head coach. After being benched by Backe for last Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo, Lindpere could only watch as New York fell from first to third in the Eastern Conference.
“I don’t see any problems,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “If I start on the bench, I have to stay on the bench. It depends how the team looks and how the practices are. In every team, when you stay at the top and you start losing, then frustration gets in the team and it’s everywhere all the time. It’s not a big deal. We need to win couple games and then we’re back on track.”
Due to a slew of injuries, Backe has been forced to play Lindpere centrally at times this year, which is not the coach's preference. And while the 30-year-old midfielder has accepted the fact that in order to break back into the starting team, he will have to do so as a left midfielder, he does not shy away from his stated preference of playing in the middle of the park.
“I never throw my thoughts away, but if there’s going to be the same situation that there’s going to be a lot of injuries, you never know what’s happening,” said Lindpere. “But it’s not my decision. I’m not the manager.”
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The loss to Houston marked the first time Lindpere failed to start a game since April, but he insists he understands that part of why he was benched in favor of rookie Connor Lade is because of how deep the team is now. And he adds that having players fight for starting spots is healthy for the Red Bulls.
“That makes the team stronger when you have competition,” said Lindpere. “I think [Jan Gunnar] Solli played a couple games [at left mid]; five, six games he played there then Connor Lade played a couple games and when you see the team get stronger, we get new players in and everybody gets healthy, that makes it more difficult for every player and maybe also for the coach.
“Now it’s easy, when you don’t get a result you can switch and that should be the quality of a strong team," he added. "When something doesn’t work out, you can put it another way.”
Whether he reclaims a starting spot and makes it his own in the coming weeks, Lindpere said he just wants to help New York end their 16-year trophy-less drought while also qualifying the club for the CONCACAF Champions League.
It is something he craves and hopes to accomplish this year, no matter if he does it as a left midfielder or not.
“To get some excitement in everybody’s career, you want to win something and want to play different teams and opponents,” said Lindpere. “When I as a player see that all the other teams do it, even Toronto and other teams, why [shouldn't we]? I’m looking forward to this and that’s extra motivation.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.