Last Sunday, Joel Lindpere called out his teammates following a disappointing and lackluster 1-1 tie in Chicago. The words were fiery but brutally honest, words of reprimand coming from the consummate team player who can never be faulted for his effort on or off the field.
After a Lindpere goal in the first half gave New York a halftime lead at Toyota Park, the Red Bulls conceded yet another soft goal, prompting the Estonian international to rip into his teammates.
We may never know what Lindpere saw when he looked at himself, but what Red Bulls fans see right now is a hero who is keeping their team near the top of the Eastern Conference.
On Saturday night at Stanford Stadium, Lindpere upped his own ante, scoring twice in each half to salvage a 2-2 tie for New York against San Jose. After each goal, Lindpere had a determined face of someone who wanted more not just from himself but from his teammates who mobbed him.
“He’s on fire right now," midfielder Dane Richards told MLSsoccer.com after the draw. "We want to keep it that way."
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Lindpere was still not smiling, even after his first brace in MLS, and it was in large part the result of another Red Bulls mistake. In the 37th minute off a corner kick, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul somehow dropped a cross he appeared to have corralled. The muffed effort was pounced on by Earthquakes midfielder Khari Stephenson, who equalized on a volley, negating Lindpere’s seventh-minute strike to start the game’s scoring.
The Red Bulls midfielder saw the positives from a game New York controlled in the first half, but still wasn’t smiling even in the locker room.
“I think we created a lot and it was a very open game, both sides,” Lindpere said. “We were good in counterattacks because we knew that we could hurt them. [San Jose’s] first goal again, our concentration, our own mistake — an easy goal. “
The Earthquakes then took the lead in the 57th minute when Steven Lenhart split the central defensive duo of Carlos Mendes and Tim Ream to powerfully head home a cross past a helpless Coundoul. It was a mental lapse by the center backs, who lost track of Lenhart. For Lindpere, it was more of the same from last Sunday in Chicago.
“It is habit that we get easy goals [scored] against us,” Lindpere said, noting the impact the goals had on New York, who had an early lead. “It started to hurt already mentally because we had to do so much work to get it back to where we started.”
But the story of the night for New York wasn’t the mental errors and mistakes which continue to plague this team, it was Lindpere putting his team on his shoulders for yet another time. Like last week in Chicago when he scored the Red Bulls' lone strike, Lindpere battled his way to two goals, including the game-tying effort in the 85th minute to give the Red Bulls a road point.
“I got a second chance and I hit it good,” Lindpere said. “I just had to put it in the goal.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer