Joel Lindpere
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New York's Lindpere warming up to left mid role

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – This time last year, New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere was just beginning to make a name for himself in MLS.

The Estonian midfielder had scored the opening goal in the first-ever match at Red Bull Arena, forever becoming a part of the club’s lore. The following week, in the stadium's MLS opener, Lindpere scored the game’s lone goal in a gritty win over the Chicago Fire.

In subsequent weeks, Lindpere earned a reputation around the league as a crafty and cunning player, one capable of being dangerous to opposing teams while creating chances for his teammates.

Then midway through last season, other sides began focusing their attentions on Lindpere, who was playing centrally. He switched to the left flank, and now he’s surrounded by talent such as newly acquired central midfielders Dwayne De Rosario and Teemu Tainio.

“We’re trying to play a bit more of a different [game] than last year,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re trying to possess and create more. We are creating more as a midfield this year by attacking more and pushing up more.”

The numbers back this up. After De Rosario was inserted into the match at halftime of Saturday’s 1-1 result against the Houston Dynamo, New York held possession for 73 percent of the possession, according to head coach Hans Backe.

That's in stark contrast to last year’s more direct style when the Red Bulls were limited in terms of their midfield pairings and were content to play long balls over the top of the defense.

[inline_node:332096]“Last year, we got results, right?" Lindpere said. "But maybe we learned that the style wasn’t so perfect. So maybe now, maybe we play a little different than last year, more through the midfield. We create more chances, we produce more chances. That’s what it’s all about in soccer.”

Though Lindpere previously voiced his preference to playing centrally, in his new role he often roams into the middle of the field anyway, freeing him to also bounce outside and find space. Against Houston, Lindpere repeatedly provided solid interchange with left back Roy Miller as the two pushed up and down the flank effectively, in particular in the first half.

But with the freedom on the flank comes responsibility.

“I think it is more work, more tiring work,” Lindpere said, laughing. “I have to change all the time where I am on the field. It is a lot of running, in and out, tracking back. I’m coming in, going out, trying to get back behind their back line then coming back to stop the counterattack.”

It’s clear, though, that Lindpere relishes the “tiring work,” and it's this blue-collar, workmanlike attitude that has made him a favorite among New York fans. In return Lindpere, who is in the final year of his contract, wants to give something back to the fans, for whom he said, “I love to fight for on the field.”

“I like the team, I like the club," he added. "I fit here good. I don’t want to leave this team without winning something more for the fans than we did last year.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer