With Patrick Nyarko ill, Joel Lindpere makes case for more playing time in 4-1 win over D.C.

Recently relegated to substitute role, Lindpere hopes for regular return to Fire starting XI

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- If not for Patrick Nyarko coming down with strep throat, Joel Lindpere probably wouldn’t have started Saturday’s 4-1 demolition of D.C. United.

Since he did, the Estonian international decided to take full advantage early on, tallying a goal and assist to give the Fire a 2-0 lead inside the first 11 minutes.

He added one more helper on Chris Rolfe’s second goal just before halftime to round out what was his best performance in a Fire shirt since joining the team in January.

HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago Fire 4, D.C. United 1

Now the team’s leader in assists with five on the season, Lindpere signaled hope that his recent body of work would mean a more regular spot in the Fire starting 11.

“I played [Wednesday] in the reserve game, I gave an assist. Last week [in] Vancouver, I gave an assist. In Columbus I gave two assists, so I think I’ve been doing my job,” he explained.

Acquired via trade from New York in January, Lindpere was originally slated to start in central midfield with fellow offseason acquisition Jeff Larentowicz. With two losses through in the team’s first two matches, the experiment was quickly ditched and Lindpere was pushed back out to the left.

The veteran Estonian then began to see his starting role diminish with the rise in form of Dilly Duka in tandem with regular starter Nyarko on the right, leaving him just one start in the previous five matches.

“I don’t know [in my career] when I didn’t play three games [straight] from the start but [those stats] mean I’m doing my job. It’s a team game. I will try to do my job and help the team. It doesn’t matter if I start next game or I don’t.”

Lindpere has appeared in 15 of the team’s 19 MLS matches this season, starting 11 of them. In his three seasons with Red Bull, he came off the bench just eight times in 97 regular season games with all of his substitute appearances coming in 2012.

Fire head coach Frank Klopas praised the effort of the team as well as Lindpere’s strong contributions on the night.

“It’s about the team,” he said in his post-game press conference. “I felt everyone had a good performance, they played well and we won as a team today -- that’s what it’s all about.

“Throughout the season we’ve talked about when the opportunity comes, guys [needing to step up] and Joel’s an experienced guy, I have 100 percent confidence when Joel comes into the game.”

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His performance Saturday combined with the fact that Duka left the match in the 47th minute with what Klopas said was a hamstring or groin injury, could mean Lindpere will get another start in next Saturday’s six-pointer in the hot climes of Houston.

With a two-game road trip coming up before an all-important U.S. Open Cup semifinal August 7 vs. D.C., Lindpere is hopeful that the Fire stick improve their road record and that Klopas keeps the lineup fresh.

“We have won only one road game and we have to be smart at this point in the season,” he said. “Next game we gotta concentrate differently than when we play at home. Home advantage is big and I really hope that we take something for the road trip from this game.”