Despite being one of the New York Red Bulls’ most influential players since his arrival, Joel Lindpere became another casualty of the MLS financial restrictions this week.
Lindpere played 97 matches for the club over a three year period, including 34 games in each of the last two seasons. During his stay in New York, the Estonian contributed 15 goals and 18 assists, and finished third behind Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper in goals last season.
The midfielder, however, would have made over $200,000 in 2013, and after the high-profile signing of Juninho, as well as several other big contracts, it was the Estonian who became the odd man out. Prior to Juninho’s signing, the club had acquired Fabián Espíndola from Real Salt Lake, and now the team has arguably the most attacking options of any squad in MLS. It’s this abundance of attacking players this offseason, that adds another reason Lindpere has been moved on in what most reports bluntly put as a salary dump.
Lindpere now joins a Chicago Fire team that was knocked out of the MLS Playoffs’ first round (or play-in round) by eventual Eastern Conference Champions Houston Dynamo. The midfielder should be deployed in the center of midfield as the Fire’s playmaker, a position Lindpere wasn’t granted the opportunity to play in New York a year ago. Forced on to the left side of midfield, Lindpere produced his lowest assist return (five) since joining the league. A return to the center, possibly paired with Pavel Pardo or Logan Pause or both depending on Frank Klopas’ preferred formation, and Lindpere will have few responsibilities other than cutting open an opponent’s back line.
The Fire will have last summer’s acquisition, Alvaro Fernandez, in their midfield as well. The Uruguayan international recorded two goals and an assist after arriving from Seattle at the end of July. Fernandez takes up one of the club’s designated player slots along with Sherjill MacDonald, and much will be expected from the team’s big earners in 2013. MacDonald’s four goals in 14 games was a good return from the summer signing, and the Dutchman has the goals in him to propel Chicago back near the top of the east.
Since last summer, Chicago has made several acquisitions to re-enforce its squad. Just as important, however, was the team’s ability to both hang on to veteran players and develop SuperDraft picks. Defender Austin Berry played 28 times for the Fire in 2012 and took home the league’s Rookie of the Year honors, becoming the third Fire player behind Carlos Bocanegra and Damani Ralph to win the award. Slotted next to former German international Arne Friedrich, and the Fire should have a dominating defense similar to the one patrolled by Wilman Conde and Bakary Soumare a few years ago.
On paper, the Fire has the pieces to contend with the top teams in MLS’ Eastern Conference. However, things don’t always work out when put into practice. Regardless, the Fire has already put together a talented team for 2013.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @CalcioFarmer, Drew writes a weekly Genoa CFC club correspondent feature for Forzaitlianfootball.com and also hosts the Forzaitalianfootball.com weekly Club Focus pod cast. As well as being a Serie A writer, Drew regularly contributes to Majorleaugesoccertalk.com, and writes his own personal football and travel blog at Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey.