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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

January 4, 2013
Joel Lindpere: an appreciation

Joel Lindpere will play his fourth MLS season with the Chicago Fire.
Joel Lindpere will play his fourth MLS season with the Chicago Fire.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

In New York and New Jersey, we love our stars larger than life.

Big names who make big money and who are bigger than life.

Not stars, but superstars.

But guess what?

There is another type of player New Yorkers and New Jerseyites love, perhaps even more -- the blue-collar player.

Joel Lindpere is one of those. He might not be the flashiest or most flamboyant soccer player around, but you know you would get the same effort from him game in and game out.

Red Bulls fans had a front-row seat to the Estonia international midfielder's exploits for the last three years at Red Bull Arena.

Whether it was down the left wing or in the middle of the pitch, he would be battling for the ball, even when he wasn't at the top of his game.

Well, the next time Red Bulls fans will get an opportunity to see Lindpere do his thing on a soccer field, he will be wearing a Chicago Fire uniform. On Friday he was dealt to the Red Bulls' Eastern Conference rivals for a song, even for Major League Soccer standards. He went for an international player slot.

That for someone who had toiled some 97 matches over the past three seasons. Lindpere certainly was worth more than just an international player slot, but after a disappointing 2012 season, his salary going over $200,000 for 2013 and a new Red Bulls management that is cleaning house, it was time for Joel to go.

Too bad, because the Red Bulls need more players like Lindpere.

The Red Bulls played an excruciating 1-1 draw at the Chicago Fire, ironically, on June 26, 2011, losing the lead. Lindpere was not a happy camper afterwards. In fact, he took his teammates to task about their attitude and teamwork.

"Game day should be like a party," he said. "I want to have fun. I play; I want to smile on the field. Itís not fun anymore."

Lindpere said every player should look at his himself in the mirror.

"I am going to look at myself," he said. "I hope my teammates look at themselves too so we play more as a team. We just need to do a better job.

"Everyone on our team needs to think about what we should do and how we should play better.

"I think everyone understands now that we cannot go on like this. We score one, but we give goals back. They get very stupid, easy goals against us, and then we fight to get the goals back. Then we do something stupid again."

I have to admit. Joel Lindpere is one of my favorite players because of what he said and because of that never-say-die work ethic.

I certainly will miss him.

Given that the team is making deal after deal during the off-season without a coach in place, I just hope the powers that be know what they're doing and whoever the new coach will be (Gary McAllister, anyone?) will be on aboard with all these decisions.

Hopefully, they will be able to find someone in the mold of a Joel Lindpere.

That would be an important starting point in the rebuilding of the Red Bulls.
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