UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The battle for playing time on the left side of the New York Red Bulls midfield is not over yet.
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has yet to make a decision on who to start at left midfield between Mehdi Ballouchy and Joel Lindpere for the club’s Saturday game vs. the San Jose Earthquakes (7 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
Lindpere has been the incumbent for his entire Red Bulls career, but this past weekend’s 4-1 road win over the Columbus Crew saw his streak of starts snapped at 59. Ballouchy got the nod from Backe instead, and although he fared well, it is not certain he will start against the Earthquakes at Red Bulla Arena.
“[Ballouchy] played well, but to be very clear about Joel, he has responded the way you want to see, he was flying today,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s been good the last two, three sessions and that’s the way it has to be. Mehdi played well, so we’ll see, we have two sessions left.”
Seeing both players start in some capacity on Saturday is unlikely, as Backe has previously stated he does not see Ballouchy as a central midfield option. Backe also does not think Lindpere is suited to play centrally when four midfielders are deployed.
“Joel is a wide player,” Backe said. “We’ve seen if you play with three central midfielders then he could be one of three but not one of two.”
That means only one of the two players is likely to start against the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Ramiro Corrales and Shea Salinas. But that competition is something that is welcomed within the team.
“It was always a matter of creating a competitive environment,” said Ballouchy. “If you do that, you’ll get the best out of the group. That’s the way you want it to be. The more players that are playing well, the harder it is for Hans, and I don’t think he would rather have it any other way.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.