Dilly Duka or Joel Lindpere? Chicago Fire benefitting from lively competition on left flank

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Joel Lindpere interjected when he was asked about Dilly Duka's performance after the Fire's 2-1 win over Columbus on June 22, one of the young midfielder's best games of the year, making sure to note his own solid play of late.

“Dilly's playing good,” Lindpere said. “That's the thing, we have depth in the team. I think I played a very great game against D.C. before I left for the national team … It doesn't matter who's starting.”

Yes, the youngster has been making a play for a starting spot, but don't forget about the Estonian.

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Lindpere wasn't exactly enjoying a career year for the first half of 2013. He hadn't registered a goal or an assist, and his time in central midfield proved to be a failed experiment. But he had an active game against D.C. United on June 2 before leaving for Estonian national team duty, and he delivered two pinpoint crosses for assists against Columbus.

Duka's year took a similar track. After struggling with injuries early in the year, Duka has also come along of late. He scored his first Fire goal against Columbus after earning a penalty kick the game before, and he assisted Chris Rolfe for the opener in the Fire's 5-1 US Open Cup win over Orlando City.

“It was a huge timing for the team,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com about his teammates' ascension. “The team wasn't doing well early in the season, so you really cannot see the qualities of some guys. I think Dilly, for example, when he learned what it takes to play outside mid, especially on this team … that's the main reason he's improved so much and is playing with so much confidence.

“Joel is just an experienced guy and it was just a matter of time when he came on,” he added.

But with Nyarko locked in as a starter on the outside, only one of Lindpere or Duka can start consistently.

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After coach Frank Klopas struggled to find the right combination of midfielders early in the year, he suddenly has a surplus of options.

Duka received the nod against Orlando City, but it's unclear who will start on Wednesday against San Jose (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“Joel's an experienced player, and Dilly's a young player, and we knew his quality and his talent,” Klopas said. “Sometimes, it does take time. Now it's about the consistency. He's young, so that's a little bit different. Joel, you put him in and he brings all of that experience. But it's good to have those kind of guys out wide. It's good because during a stretch like this, we're going to rely on everyone.”

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