UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Joel Lindpere has been talking about this moment since March. Now that it’s playoff time, the Estonian international, who is in his first year in MLS, is approaching his goal — winning MLS Cup.
With that, he's not going to let a little groin pain get in his way.
On Friday, following the 2-0 win over New England, Lindpere felt slight pain during regeneration, which has hampered him as the Red Bulls prepare for the playoffs.
“I’m a man," Lindpere said. “I most likely am tough enough to play with this small injury. I can play through the pain.”
Lindpere has done just light training over the past few days, but missing Saturday’s postseason opener in San Jose (Telefutura, 10 p.m. ET) isn’t an option — especially when the club's in the midst of a worst-to-first turnaround.
When Lindpere joined the Red Bulls, he was fully aware the club was coming off one of the worst seasons in MLS history, finishing dead-last.
However, he said wasn’t intimidated by a challenge and that sporting director Erik Soler had filled him in on the team’s rebuilding status as he courted the midfielder.
“I knew that last year we weren’t very good,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “I understood that this was going to be a challenge and lots of hard work to get the club to a decent level.”
But even an optimistic Lindpere couldn't have imagined how everything would unfold for New York. The Red Bulls finished first in the Eastern Conference and are holders of the third-best regular-season record. The team is now a favorite to advance to MLS Cup for just the second time in franchise history.
Lindpere, however, claimed to have seen hints of his club’s bright future early on.
“I think after the first few games, we won five of our first six games or something very much close to that,” Lindpere said. “That’s when I knew that we could do well; we could make the playoffs and be a good team — a very good team.”
The season started with Lindpere powering home the first goal in Red Bull Arena history in a exhibition win over Brazilian club Santos. The following week, in the season opener against Chicago, he tallied the lone goal in New York’s 1-0 win.
Last Thursday night, Lindpere’s regular season came full circle, scoring the second goal in the win over New England. After the match, head coach Hans Backe praised Lindpere, who has played in every position in the midfield and been a vital cog for the team all season long.
“He’s been our most consistent player this season,” Backe said "I would say every game, his work ethic is phenomenal."
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012
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