Red Bulls fan favorite and blue-collar midfielder Joel Lindpere will earn his 75th cap with the Estonia National Team this weekend in a two-leg series against the Republic of Ireland. With the winner moving on to Euro 2012, it’s no wonder that Lindpere took note of the high stakes and answered the call for his nation. The act alone is not only an indication of his inability to shrug off a challenge, but also his allegiance to his fellow countrymen. However, it likely comes as somewhat of a surprise considering his prerogative since coming to New York, especially in light of recent reports that suggested his decision remained up in the air.
Lindpere has made his commitment to the Red Bulls more than obvious, as he routinely declined international call ups since making his MLS debut in 2010. With New York on the cusp of cracking the postseason, Lindpere did not give a definitive answer in October when asked about his international duties. He was quick to admit that he was focused on allotting enough time on his schedule for a potential MLS Cup run.
Had New York advanced to the MLS Cup, it’s hard to say whether Lindpere would have elected to play for Estonia during the two week lull between the Conference finals and the championship match. When MLSsoccer.com approached him last month to get his input on potential involvement in this weekend’s playoff, he maintained a wait-and-see approach.
“I’m following every game, what they do. For me, it’s not the best time to discuss these things,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m going to keep concentrating on my work here and let’s see what’s going to happen in the future.”
The future is now for Lindpere as he will look to lead his team past the Republic of Ireland in what would undoubtedly be categorized as an upset victory, should Estonia advance to the next stage. Regardless of the outcome, no one will argue against the fact that Estonia is a better team with Lindpere in the lineup. The 30-year-old midfielder is coming off a career year with the Red Bulls, scoring seven goals (third overall) and adding seven assists (tied for first). He also led the club in minutes played (3,048) and was the only player to start in all 34 matches, a sure sign of his durability and natural tendency to shake off the aches and pains of a long MLS season for the benefit of his team.
Since its FIFA inception in 1992, Estonia has competed in five World Cup qualifying rounds and five Euro Championship qualifying rounds. The first match of the two-leg playoff kicks off in Tallinn on Friday, with the second leg taking place in Dublin on Tuesday.