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Kiwis Abroad: All Whites taking form into Japan

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Several All Whites will take some outstanding form into Friday’s clash with Japan while the Football Ferns’ overseas-based contingent are continuing to stamp their authority at club level after their two-match tour of the United States.

The All Whites backline will know they have a safe pair of hands behind them in Nagoya after Stefan Marinovic performed heroics as the Vancouver Whitecaps clinched a place in the Major League Soccer (MLS) play-offs with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. Marinovic has been competing with David Ousted for the number one spot and put his hand up to claim that role on a permanent basis with an outstanding display that was rightly rewarded with the man of the match award. The Kiwi custodian made a pair of world-class saves as Vancouver became the first team to beat Kansas on their own patch this season, firstly throwing himself to his right to somehow keep out a Diego Rubio header early on before repeating the trick with one of the last plays of the game to maintain his side’s lead. With Sporting desperately pressing forward to find the equaliser, Marinovic leapt high to acrobatically turn away a Cristian Lobato volley and prevent the nearly 19,000 Kansas fans from celebrating. Fellow All White James Musa had a front-row seat to watch his international team mate hit the headlines as an unused substitute for Kansas. Elsewhere, the other New Zealand goalkeeper in the MLS, Jake Gleeson, joined Musa in warming the bench as the Portland Timbers were defeated 2-1 by the San Jose Earthquakes. Michael Boxall got a full game under his belt and picked up a second-half booking but was not able to help Minnesota United to a third straight win as they fell 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo.

There was also more than one Kiwi involved as the second-string sides of the Whitecaps and the Timbers came up against each other in the United Soccer League (USL). Deklan Wynne and Myer Bevan both started for Vancouver while Bill Tuiloma did likewise for the Timbers but Francis de Vries had to be content with a place on the Vancouver bench. It was Tuiloma that triumphed in the battle of the Kiwis as Portland earned a narrow 1-0 victory. The result was of little consequence in the play-off picture though as both sides are propping up the table and therefore playing only for pride in their remaining couple of matches. Faring much better in the Western Conference standings are Reno 1868, for whom Kip Colvey was again made available by parent club San Jose. Reno sit second on the ladder but were humbled 3-0 by leaders Real Monarchs in a top-of-the-table clash that Colvey took part in for 77 minutes. After a scoreless first half, his side was only 1-0 down when the All Whites fullback departed and his defensive skills were clearly missed as two late goals went in to deny Reno a third straight victory. Despite the loss, they have plenty to look forward to with the USL play-offs on the horizon.

Also about to embark on a quest for play-off glory is former Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg, whose North Carolina Courage have now claimed the regular season championship after finishing top of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The Erceg-captained Courage have been the team to beat all season and secured top spot with a 4-0 win over the Houston Dash in mid-week. They were then presented with their reward, the NWSL Shield, prior to taking on the Orlando Pride in their final regular season match but ended on a low note with a 3-2 loss. The Courage will now face the Chicago Red Stars this Sunday in a home semi-final. Erceg is the only New Zealander involved in the four-team play-offs with Rebekah Stott’s Seattle Reign just missing out with a fifth-place finish while Katie Bowen has finished seventh with FC Kansas City and Rosie White helped the Boston Breakers narrowly avoid the wooden spoon. The Reign finished on a high with a remarkable come-from-behind 3-2 win over Washington Spirit but Stott played no part as an unused substitute while Bowen came on for the last 25 minutes as Kansas drew 1-1 with Houston. White could not play any part in Boston’s thrilling 4-3 defeat to Sky Blue FC due to suspension. Also in danger of finishing near the bottom of the table is former All White Craig Henderson, who earned a recall to the starting line-up for Indy Eleven against North Carolina in the North American Soccer League (NASL) but couldn’t prevent a 5-0 loss with four of those goals coming in the first half. Indy Eleven are propping up the eight-team NASL but have six matches left to turn that around.

Across the Atlantic, Chris Wood is enjoying a far loftier perch on the English Premier League ladder as his return to the top flight with Burnley continues to go well. Under the shrewd guidance of manager Sean Dyche, the Clarets have become the surprise package in the early stages of the campaign and are now breathing the rarefied air of sixth after a 1-0 away win over Everton. While he did not manage to get on the scoresheet, Wood put in an outstanding shift as the focal point of Burnley’s attack, holding the ball up impressively and displaying several deft touches. The big Kiwi nearly found the net when stretching to try to reach a deflected Matt Lowton cross and also tested goalkeeper Jordan Pickford when he showed great strength to win a long ball and head it on towards goal. The other Kiwi in the Premier League, West Ham United defender Winston Reid, won’t be as happy with his side’s position in the table as the Hammers are 15th and just two points away from the relegation zone. But they were finally able to celebrate just their second win of the campaign, Reid playing the full 90 minutes as per usual as West Ham edged out Swansea City 1-0 thanks to a last-gasp Diafra Sakho strike. A pair of New Zealanders could be in a personal battle in a Premier League match for the first ever time after the international break with Reid likely to be charged with handling Wood when the Hammers travel to Burnley on October 14.

Meanwhile, the Kiwi representation in the English lower leagues has been added to after All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis put pen to paper on his first professional deal with League One outfit Scunthorpe United. The 20-year-old is delighted to have achieved a goal he has had since childhood. "I always wanted to get this opportunity - you dream of being a professional at something you love," he says. After starring at the FIFA Confederations Cup, Lewis fielded several offers from various countries but England was always his first choice. "I thought the UK would be the best option for me," he says. "I like the way Scunthorpe play and have a lot of respect for the coach, Graham Alexander. I’m looking forward to contributing to the team." The former Auckland City star is not the first Kiwi to be on the books of the Iron, following in the footsteps of Perry Cotton, Jason Batty, David Mulligan and Rory Fallon. He is likely to be the only New Zealander playing first-team football in the third tier, although goalkeeper Nik Tzanev is at AFC Wimbledon and earned a place on the bench as the Dons defeated an U-23 selection from Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 in the Checkatrade Trophy, a knockout competition for League One and Two teams that also features invited age-group sides from some Premier League and Championship clubs. One level lower, former All Whites defender Steven Old has recently broken into the first team for Morecambe and again played the entire match on the weekend but it was not a good afternoon for the Shrimps’ defence as they shipped four goals in a 4-1 loss to Exeter City. Morecambe are now 21st in League Two and have won just two of their 11 games so far.

Outside of the big leagues in England, a pair of All Whites were both involved for the Sunderland U-23s as the Wearsiders suffered a humbling experience at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion, falling to a 5-0 defeat at home in the Premier League Cup. Michael Woud has stepped up to the higher age-group this season after starring for the club’s U-18 side last term and again earned a starting berth while Sam Brotherton would have been delighted to do the same after spending most of his time on the bench in the opening weeks of the campaign. Both could have been forgiven for wishing they weren’t involved though as Brighton ran riot to stun the hosts. Goalkeeper Woud played the whole match while Brotherton came off shortly after half time. They will be hoping for a better result when the All Whites take on Japan on Friday and it will be a particularly special experience for Woud as he is on his first senior international tour. In the women’s game, it was a quiet weekend for the Football Ferns pair in the FA Women’s Super League as Anna Green and OIivia Chance were both unused substitutes. Green looked on as Reading swept aside Liverpool 3-0 while Chance did likewise in Everton’s 2-1 loss to Birmingham City.

Over on mainland Europe, Ryan Thomas has entered the All Whites camp full of confidence after starting every match in the Dutch Eredivisie for PEC Zwolle and playing a key role in their impressive push to fourth on the ladder. The latest success was a 3-2 win over Groningen and Thomas was amongst the goal scorers, supplying an equaliser to make it two-all on the hour mark. The 22-year-old has relished having a deeper midfield role under new manager John van’t Schip this season but was lurking at the back post when a half-cleared corner broke to him on the bounce and he showed great technique to hit a volley under pressure that went in off the far post. Things didn’t go as well for the other All White in the Dutch top-flight, Marco Rojas featuring for just over an hour as SC Heerenveen were outclassed 4-0 by reigning champions Ajax. It was a first loss of the season for unfancied Heerenveen, who have begun more brightly than expected and are equal on points with Thomas’ high-flying Zwolle.

The Football Ferns duo in Germany both suffered defeats, Amber Hearn’s FC Koln doing so in truly forgettable fashion with a 7-0 thumping at the hands of SC Freiburg while CJ Bott came much closer to a result for Hearn’s former side, USV Jena, but was likewise left empty handed after being edged out 1-0 by FFC Frankfurt. Ferns goalkeeper Erin Nayler had more luck in France as her clean sheet gave Bordeaux a 1-0 win over Olympique Marseille but Ali Riley and Betsy Hassett joined their German-based colleagues in tasting defeat. Riley’s second-placed Rosengard suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Kristianstads DFF in Sweden while Hassett was on the wrong end of the scoreline in an Icelandic local derby, her KR Reykjavik being swept aside 3-0 by Valur Reykjavik. Staying in Scandinavia, Tyler Lissette and Erik Panzer experienced contrasting results in Sweden as Panzer helped Nordvarmland FF to a 4-0 success against Vargarda IK while Lissette’s IFK Varnamo were comfortably beaten 5-0 by IK Frej. Nearby in Finland, Nikko Boxall was at the heart of the KuPS Kuopio defence as they consolidated second place in the Veikkausliiga with a 2-1 triumph over Inter Turku while All Whites goalkeeper Tamati Williams was an unused substitute for AaB in a 4-1 loss to FC Midtjylland in the Danish Superligaen. Elsewhere in Europe, Tyler Boyd came on for the last 15 minutes of CD Tondela’s 1-1 draw with GD Chaves in the Portuguese Primeira Liga while Themi Tzimopoulos had a disappointing day in the Greek Super League as PAS Giannina were defeated 2-0 by Panathinaikos.

In South Africa, Jeremy Brockie has helped SuperSport United to the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup, Africa’s secondary club football competition. The winners will play off against their counterparts from the CAF Champions League and SuperSport are in line to be that team after drawing 1-1 at home to Tunisian outfit Club Africain in the first leg of the semi-finals. Brockie is the top scorer in this season’s Confederation Cup with nine goals and spurned an opportunity to add to that tally when he put a header wide from close range in the second half. SuperSport will now need to find the target in the away leg in three weeks’ time to make it through to the final. In Indonesia, Shane Smeltz took full part as Borneo FC faced Barito Putera but could not find the goals to avoid a 2-1 defeat while, a bit closer to home, former New Zealand U-20 international Zane Sole has signed with Fijian club Lautoka as the Blues look to bolster their squad ahead of the 2018 OFC Champions League. The 25-year-old midfielder has been playing for the Port Melbourne Sharks in Australia and previous featured in the ISPS Handa Premiership for Waitakere United and Hawke’s Bay United.

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