An awfully good argument can be made that Joel Lindpere is the best foreign import of the season in MLS.
The Estonian international midfielder, who has been a fixture of his national team for much the past decade, brings plenty of top European experience to the Red Bulls, despite being just 28 years old. Lindpere has been the vital cog in the midfield of a New York side that has already eclipsed last season’s win total.
And apparently, he’s a rock star in Estonia.
The Red Bulls have reported a significant surge in the number of hits on their website coming from Estonia, a nation in northern Europe on the Baltic Sea that shares a border with Russia. With a population of just 1.4 million, it's the smallest nation in the European Union—but it's having a big impact on the MLS All-Star ballot.
Lindpere is currently the top online vote-getter for July’s MLS All-Star game. Should he earn a trip to the summer classic, he'll face off against English giants Manchester United.
All told, more than 67 percent of all votes for New York’s No. 20 came from his homeland. It gets better. Of all the votes cast for midfielders across the league to play in the game, 18 percent came from Estonia, representing a huge voting block determined to see the player in the All-Star Game’s Starting XI.
“It would be an honor to be chosen,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “It would mean that I’m doing what I came over here to do – to play well and win games.”
Thanks to all this interest, Estonia now boasts the second-highest number of MLSsoccer.com viewers, after only the United States. The link to the MLS All-Star ballot has become a permanent fixture on Facebook sites about Estonia.
“I think maybe they want me to play Manchester United,” Lindpere said. “I don’t think anyone from my nation has ever played Manchester United before, so it would be an honor to do so.”
As for any organized campaign – “Lindpere You Can Believe In” has an awful nice ring to it – the New York engine shrugs it off in typical fashion.
“I would never ask fans to do anything like that for me, but I do appreciate all they do,” Lindpere said. “I’m here to play hard and win games.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.