Lindpere will be back
Joel Lindpere, much like Luke Rodgers, arrived in Major League Soccer fairly unheralded. Despite having made 75 appearances for the Estonian national team, he had spent the bulk of his club career well outside the spotlight, first with several Estonian sides, most notably Flora Tallinn, and then with Tromsø of Norway's Tippeligaen - the northernmost topflight football club in the world. Few New York Red Bulls fans expected much from Lindpere upon his arrival, and it would be fair to say that his signing was greeted with more than a few WTFs.
Two years later, Lindpere has become arguably the Red Bulls' most emblematic player since the team moved from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena. Thierry Henry may get a lot more press and a much fatter paycheck, but no player has been taken to heart by fans the way that Lindpere has. In addition to being an absolute iron man over two seasons in New Jersey (making a total of 63 appearances), Lindpere was the scorer of the first ever goal at Red Bull Arena and has brought his lunchpail to work every day. While the dedication of Henry and - to a greater extent - Rafa Marquez has been sometimes at issue, that has never been the case for Lindpere. New Yorkers love players who give it all for the cause and the Estonian fits that description to a tee.
Up until today, Lindpere was also one of MLS' most under-compensated players, taking home a paltry $90,000 base salary ($125,000 total compensation). By way of comparison, Brian Nielsen, who spent the better part of two seasons on injured reserve (and a lot more time partying, allegedly) earned $120,000 in base compensation. Lindpere isn't the kind of player inclined to gripe openly about his paycheck, though he dropped subtle hints to Estonian media over the winter that if a contract extension could not be worked out with New York he might have to look elsewhere. The possibility of #20 leaving was taken off the table today when the Red Bulls announced that they had agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the midfielder. The length and terms of the deal were not disclosed, and there is no way of knowing how much of a salary bump Lindpere has earned until 2012 MLS player salaries are made public later this year, but it is very welcome news, especially after several months of uncertainty.
Over the past two days, the Red Bulls have done a solid job of filling in holes in their roster and answering nagging questions. With the addition of Wilman Conde to the back line and the Lindpere contract situation resolved, they can now turn their attention to preparing for the season opener in Dallas. That's not to say that all of the questions about squad composition have been answered. The goalkeeping position is still worryingly thin and lacking in experience, even after the addition of Jeremy Vuolo. Then there's the matter of Rodgers' visa, which remains unresolved. But for a day at least, Red Bulls fans should be pleased that their much-criticized front office has had the decency and foresight to give Lindpere what he deserves.