SANTA CLARA, Calif. – He hasn’t scored a ton of goals this season for the Red Bulls. But when he does, they sure count.
Joel Lindpere’s 55th-minute strike was the difference-maker Saturday night, leading New York to a crucial 1-0 away victory in San Jose in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was only Lindpere’s fifth goal in a Red Bulls jersey, but it seems like every time RBNY need a goal, the Estonian midfielder delivers – and his team-leading five assists this season aren’t something to sniff at, either.
“Once again,” said head coach Hans Backe of Lindpere’s clutch performance Saturday. “He’s been fantastic this season for us.”
WATCH: Lindpere puts RBNY up on San Jose
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Lindpere’s first goal came back in March in a friendly against Brazilian side Santos, the first game ever held at Red Bull Arena. A week later, he scored the winner in New York’s season-opener against Chicago.
He wasn’t heard from again for five months, but his winning goal against Toronto FC was arguably the turning point of RBNY’s season, a victory that snapped a five-game winless streak for the club. Last week, he scored a late insurance goal against New England, guaranteeing that New York would finish atop the Eastern Conference for the first time in 10 years.
Then came Saturday night, when his blast off a missed clearance beat Earthquakes ‘keeper Jon Busch to send New York home for next Thursday's second leg with a 1-0 aggregate-goals lead.
“He’s been excellent for us,” said defender Carlos Mendes of Lindpere’s impact. “He’s a good player, works hard and he picks up some big goals for us. He’s been a big addition to our club and we’re excited to have him here.”
In truth, Lindpere could have added another two goals Saturday night. Busch made a great save on the Estonian international in the 11th minute, then Lindpere looked as if he had a sure goal in first-half stoppage time, but his shot was cleared off the line by San Jose’s Jason Hernandez.
“One went in,” Lindpere said after the game, “and perhaps this was enough for today.”
If he can keep scoring timely goals like this, perhaps that’ll be enough for the Red Bulls to advance all the way to Toronto next month.
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