HARRISON, N.J. — Joel Lindpere paced back from the showers and began to dress quickly, head down, half-facing his locker despite the circle of reporters waiting to hear his thoughts on the New York Red Bulls’ latest playoff setback.
“I don’t know. I don’t know, guys,” he said quietly, clearly chagrinned to face an inquisition with the hurt still so fresh. “You can watch, everybody, the game again, then you see what happened. I think the better team lost today.”
The Estonian midfielder, who came within inches of giving his team a dream start with a first-half shot that rolled barely, agonizingly wide of the right post, has long been a quiet workhorse on a team of stars. But in the wake of Thursday’s extraordinary Eastern Conference Semifinal second-leg loss to D.C. United, it turned out Lindpere had some things to say.
A question about the impending changes widely expected around the club served as the trigger.
“I think we played good today, and that’s some comfort,” said Lindpere. "Because I just can’t believe it. [United] opened up one chance, and they used it."
“So changes need to be done, and it’s normal with the Red Bulls, there is changes all the time. And I’ve been here for three years and playing [expletive] every game and I haven’t won nothing.”
At some clubs, three straight playoff appearances would suggest success, or at least competitiveness and promise for the future.
Not for New York.
For the most expensive squad in Major League Soccer, straining for a footprint in the nation’s largest and most demanding media market, good enough usually isn’t good enough – and the pressure is taking its toll.
“I think we have a great team,” Lindpere said as he threw on a hooded sweatshirt. “Who is staying, who is leaving, I don’t know. I don’t think about this now. I just think about how to get away from here and go home and have a relax.”
Asked about coach Hans Backe’s tenure, he made clear that this stinging loss to a hated rival will not heal easily.
“Why I should talk now when we just had a tough game?" Lindpere said. "Why I need to talk about [the past] three years? Today I think everybody saw that we did good and we were – I don’t know, maybe yeah, maybe we have too much experience with these playoff games. Maybe it’s better to be bottom of the league a couple years and then play again. And then go fresh and win with some luck.”