Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)
The Woodsman is the reigning King of the Flying Kiwis, there’s no denying it. Back from his latest injury he came off the bench last week and scored the winner against Everton. It wasn’t enough to get him a start against West Ham but there he was poised on the bench after a first half in which the Hammers shaded things, unlucky not to get a penalty for a handball against Aaron Lennon. West Ham really needed something good after consecutive 4-1 defeats and a serious injury to Winston Reid... which, by the way, cost us a Flying Kiwis Derby. Woody sure loves not being the only NZer in the Premier League but that next head to head will have to wait ‘til next season.
Chris Wood: “It is fantastic, it’s probably the first time in the history that we’ve had two at the same time. Ryan (Nelson) and Winny crossed over a little bit, Simon Elliott and Ryan crossed over a little bit, but not consistently. Hopefully over the years we will do that.”
So in the 61st minute, on came Chris Wood. It took him five minute to skip around the right hand side and cut one back to Ashley Barnes who slammed it in for the opener. Within 15 minutes Chris Wood had a double and Burnley were up 3-0, which is the way it stayed. Both simple goals, one tapping in from a skewed Lennon cross-shot and the other following up on Joe Hart’s fumbled save.
BBC Sport: “This triumph over West Ham, their first back-to-back wins since December, was testament to a vastly improved second half. They did not have a shot on target and rode their luck before the break, but it all changed - again - when Dyche brought Wood off the bench. The towering Kiwi suddenly leading the line with Barnes made a big difference.”
Chris Wood, man. What a guy. That’s now 74 minutes of football since he returned and he’s scored three goals with an assist, just call him the Harry Kane of Aotearoa. Seven PL goals for Burnley already and as soon as he comes back the Clarets go and win conscutive games. If he hadn’t gotten hurt they might be ahead of Arsenal by now.
But we’re overlooking the mass drama of that West Ham game. The Hammers fans had planned a protest against the owners of the club which got cancelled earlier in the week but those tensions re-emerged once this game slid away so abruptly. One idiot even ran onto the field, not joking here, and stole a corner flag, running it into the centre circle before some players confronted him. Mark Noble looked like he was ready to deck the bugger. Meanwhile fans massed in front of the director’s box chanting angrily at the owners, who were quickly shuffled away by security amidst some morons throwing coins and stuff and others making threatening gestures. They all left except for Trevor Brooking, who obviously knew that he was the one guy there that the fans would never harm. The tensions in the crowd were enough that a few of the champions on the Burnley bench allowed some kids to sit with them just in case things teed off in the stands. The game was briefly interrupted before things restarted and Wood scored his second.
Chris Wood though, how good!
Lancashire Telegraph: “After the second half performance against Everton a week ago most fans hoped to see the Ashley Barnes-Chris Wood partnership given a go from the start. But Sean Dyche is never one to make selections to please his public. The announcement that it was same again was met with a chorus of sighs on the immediate judging ground that is social media. This time the Clarets chief waited an hour before making the change and again the introduction of Chris Wood for Jeff Hendrick changed the game in Burnley’s favour.
But that doesn’t automatically mean that the two would have fired from the start. Dyche picked Hendrick to try and quieten the game early on, to control any potential reaction to West Ham’s recent road hammerings. As the hour approached it became clear the game was there for the taking and the attacking change turned the tide in Burnley’s favour.”
Up Next: A week off for FA Cup stuff then another one for the international window and then they’re away to West Brom on April 1 at 2.00am (NZT)
Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)
Last week we saw the injury, this week we got the diagnosis and it’s exactly as feared. Winston Reid won’t play again this season after damaging knee ligaments when he fell awkwardly (and copping a concussion at the same time) in the 4-1 defeat against Swansea. Just think, if the All Whites had qualified for the World Cup then it would be absolute panic stations right now. As it is perhaps Winston can at least find a positive in that he can lie low while the Hammers deal with their monstrous dramas at the moment.
David Moyes: “Unfortunately we lost Winston Reid and Sam Byram in the game last week. Winston we think will be out for the rest of the season, and Sam Byram, we’re just waiting on a decision from the surgeon at the moment, but it doesn’t look great either. That’s disappointing because Sam’s obviously just back from injury, as is Winston Reid. But they both took injuries in the game.”
Journalist: The Winston Reid news in particular, how big a blow is that?
David Moyes: “It’s a really big blow because he’s a really important player for us. He’s experienced and with the games we’ve got coming up in the next sort of ten weeks or so he was going to be really important.”
Up Next: A whole lotta rehab
Ryan Thomas – PEC Zwolle (Dutch Eredivisie)
The good news is that Ryan Thomas scored his first goal of the season this weekend. The bad news is that it was an own goal and his team lost 2-0 to Groningen. Here’s the goal, not usually like Thommo to get his feet tangled up but everyone has a stink day at the office now and then.
Groningen were without a win in 2018 since the league resumed but were worth their lead when they got it, even if it was fortunate how it came abouts. Their luck was a little less prominent when Mimoun Mahi hit the crossbar before the break. Zwolle came out of the sheds much stronger and Ryan Thomas in particular was out to make amends… but he also hit the crossbar. Then just in case this wasn’t bad enough already, Aussie Ajdin Hrustic scored a deflected goal in the 88th minute to kill it off. It means Zwolle themselves still only have one win in 2018 and that was against Marco Rojas’ sc Heerenveen. Poor Thommo.
They’re still seventh, which is the last spot that gets to playoff for the Europa League, but they might not be for long if they can’t fix this poor run of form. At least they can get back into the groove next week if they can topple Feyenoord who are five points up on the PECers.
Ryan Thomas might not care too much if they miss the European stuff because he’s likely to be off at the end of this campaign anyway. He’s made no secret of that either. If he does end up taking a transfer away then he’ll do well to top his teammate Philippe Sandler who has just announced that he’s off to Manchester City at the end of his contract.
Up Next: Monday 4.45am at home to Feyenoord (NZT)
Hannah Wilkinson – Vittsjo GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)
Up Next: Continuing to be a Strong Woman, hopefully
Stefan Marinovic & Myer Bevan – Vancouver Whitecaps (American Major League Soccer)
LASSES AND LADS, GET YOUR FINE SELVES DOWN TO PHARMASAVE AND GET FIVE BUCKS OFF ALL THOSE PILLS, POWDERS AND CREAMS YOU NEED TO GET THROUGH EACH DAY AND TELL THEM STEFAN SENT YOU!
Despite a heap of player turnover, the Vancouver Whitecaps are expected to be a very good team this season and so far so good on that front. They’ve begun their campaign with two wins from two for the first time since 2012 after a wonderful 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo away in Texas in which a certain kiwi keeper was all over the place like the legend he is. The home side had three times as many shots as the Caps could muster and two-thirds of possession, with Marinovic called upon to make several saves.
What’s more is that the team from Vancouver had to travel 4000km to get to Houston where the humidity was at 90% to play a team with a notoriously intimidating home record that won 5-0 in their first game and Stefan Marinovic, doing his best Michael Jordan/Dirk Nowitzki impersonation, was battling a flu all week and nearly didn’t even play… only to end up as man of the match.
The Whitecaps had never won in Houston before and on the basis of this they still shouldn’t have but they were lightning on the counter attack and took the lead in the 28th when Kei Kamara scored his 100th MLS goal from the penalty spot. Albert Ellis equalised in the 38th minute with a powerful strike through some traffic, possibly taking a slight deflection on the way (hard to tell). The goal felt like it was coming and it could easily have been one-way traffic after that. Yet Brek Shea broke the line down the left flank and was too quick for the defence, angling infield and slipping one past the keeper for the lead within four minutes of the resumption.
It was then that Stefan Marinovic stepped it up with a couple magnificent saves to preserve the lead and the Whitecaps hung on for a famous win, the kind of win that could set them up for a few more weeks with all that lingering confidence.
Manager Carl Robinson: “Stefan (Marinovic) came up big, I thought, in the first half. He’s been suffering from flu all week and it was a question mark on whether I would play him or not. I’m glad I did. He came up with two key saves. Your keeper is going to have to make saves here. He really is. Because they do prep here. We saw last week what they were like and I read that people say that it was a fluke last week. It was no fluke. They’re a good team. They’re a top team and they got top attacking players and we knew we had to try to limit their chances and we done it to a certain extent. We kept their shots, I think, at six or seven, but the keeper has to come up big.”
Eighty Six Forever Player Ratings: “Stefan Marinovic - 8.0 - The Kiwi found himself much busier than in his first outing, seeing 21 total shots and making 6 saves. He also made two terrific diving saves from efforts inside the box, helping the Whitecaps preserve their slim advantage. Additionally, I thought that Marinovic did a much better job commanding his area than he did last weekend, highlighted by an aggressive punch in the 83rd minute.”
Up Next: Atlanta United vs VWs, 12.30pm on Sunday (NZT)
Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)
Another 17 minutes for Marco this week as they played away at Ajax… and got pumped 4-1. It was still 2-1 when Rojas was introduced but then Donny van de Beek and David Neres scored late goals to polish things off. Disappointing to let it get away at the end but Ajax bossed this thing from start to finish so they can’t hardly complain.
It does mean another significant run for Marco though, following on from the 65 minutes he got last game coming on for the injured Arber Zeneli (who was back on the bench, a fellow sub with Rojas here). Marco had a couple yarns after that and it turns out his parents were in the crowd to watch him that game, thus pretty handy that he managed to get out on the park for an extended cameo.
Marco Rojas to Leeuwarder Courant: “It’s nice that my parents are now with me and that they’ve been able to see me playing football for Heerenveen. With the injury of Arber, the reason for my entrance was a pity, but at the same time I was happy that I was back on the field. I had to get into the rhythm of the game but in the end I’m satisfied, I think."
“Of course you would prefer to play every game, but I needed time for me to adjust. I come from the other side of the world. The cultural differences are huge. That process comes with ups and downs. This is top-level football. Every footballer wants to end up in Europe. That means that there are a lot of good players here and that you have to fight for your place.”
Up Next: Home to Utrecht on Sunday at 8.45am (NZT)
Tyler Boyd – CD Tondela (Portuguese Primeira Liga)
90 more minutes for Tyler Boyd, mate. Away to Belenenses and they drew 0-0 in a very dull game. Tiago Caeiro did hit the post late on for the home team but thankfully he missed the thing and it ended in a stalemate. Not a lot to say about the game other than that it was a mutually beneficial result and that Tyler had a couple shots including one of the team’s two on target. It’s his third straight game with 90 minutes and fourth in five. Gotta say he’s surely playing the best footy of his career so far, here’s to a few more goals.
Up Next: Tondela vs Maritimo at 9.30am on Sunday (NZT)
Elliot Collier – Chicago Fire (American Major League Soccer)
Didn’t bloody see this coming, aye? Elliot Collier not only hung onto the MLS roster after getting a contract with the team following his drafting but he even got on the park in their first game, a late substitution for a couple minutes of running around. He went from being off the radar to actually making his MLS debut before Bill Tuiloma, Cory Brown or Myer Bevan and only a few hours after Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne.
This was a crazy game too. The Fire were down 2-0 at the half but were 3-2 up with less than ten minutes to go after a flurry of attack. But nah, then they conceded a couple quick ones to lose 4-3. Collier came on right at the end as they were chasing a fourth, a big striker to pump the ball towards, but it didn’t happen. With all the goals there was a heap of injury time but the Fire probably got caught a tad rusty after their opening week bye. We’ll keep an eye on where Collier goes from here but in the very least he got to play close to ten minutes with Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Up Next: Away to Minnesota Utd at 7.00am on Sunday (NZT)
Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)
A 3-2 defeat first up left Minnesota United in a familiar position looking to bounce back from the individual errors that cost them. Mike Boxall mostly got away with it but he was still in the ‘could do better’ column. Against Orlando in their second game he/they did.
United struck early when Ethan Finlay broke the offside trap in the 12th minute to give his side the lead. Nice finish too. The assistant on the sideline probably wouldn’t have minded another look at it though. Minny’s defence was holding firm with that lead until an extended VAR review overturned a clumsy free kick on the edge of the box after it was determined that the first contact happened inside the area. Yoshimar Yotun emphatically scored the spottie and if that name is familiar to you then it’s because the dude was part of the Peru side that took on Boxall and the All Whites in that World Cup qualifying tie. He was booked in the first leg and came off the bench in the second.
1-1 at half-time then. Minnesota took a blow early in the second frame when Kevin Molino, having set up the MU goal, had to be replaced with a knee injury that he’d sustained late in the first half and been unable to run off. He went down untouched and that’s never a good sign. However this wasn’t gonna be a bummer of a day in Minnesota. With a little over ten minutes to play it was that lad Finlay again, looking to make up for conceding the penalty, who made a sharp run to the far post to tap in from Miguel Ibarra’s lovely cross. 2-1 the final score and a first win on the board.
Zone Coverage Player Ratings: “CB Michael Boxall, 6 — At times provides the exact type of blunt force needed from a rugged center back, but at others looks sluggish and the weakest of the current center-half pairing.”
Not exactly a powerhouse performance for Boxall, who is yet to really settle at MLS level, but he did fine against a team that had 20 shots but only four on target. Depending on who you ask, Boxall is under constant pressure for his position from Brent Kallman, although coach Jeff Heath seems to rate Boxall pretty high (good on him). After the defensive errors of the first game, he could easily have been the scapegoat. Hence keeping Orlando out apart from a controversial penalty goes well for his job security. This from Twin Cities Pioneer Press from before the second game:
““Stupid” is how Heath initially described the first two goals allowed to the Earthquakes within consecutive first-half minutes. How the Loons weren’t able to shed the sieve narrative from a year ago must irk the club and could produce a change. Most armchair tacticians back in Minnesota on Saturday night wanted Woodbury’s Brent Kallman instead of Michael Boxall as the partner to Francisco Calvo in central defense. Heath played Boxall 225 minutes in three preseasons games in Charleston, S.C., compared with only 45 for Kallman, so he clearly rates the New Zealand native higher than Minnesotan, who is healthy after a few setbacks at end of last season. Heath said Kallman’s playing time will come this season, but will it be this soon?”
But you know what Boxall does better than any of them? He’s an enforcer. Check out the pic at the top, he was at it all game.
Up Next: Home to Chicago Fire with a possible FKs Derby on the line, 7.00am on Sunday (NZT)
Ali Riley – FC Rosengard (Swedish Damallsvenskan)
Oh that’s just a full stream of Rosengard’s latest Swedish Cup game, a 3-2 win over Kristianstad that ensures they go through into the final stages of the competition. It’s a trophy that they’ve won two years in a row so nothing too unexpected there. Riley played the full thing after returning from Football Ferns duty – speaking of the Footy Ferns, read all about their games here.
Hannah Wilkinson’s team Vittsjo also played and won, they beat Qviding FIF 8-0, but Wilko didn’t play because she was still suspended after getting sent off last game. Shame about that, there might have been some goals on offer. Vittsjo and Rosengard were in the same group and Riley’s lot won 3-0 when they met a few weeks back.
Up Next: Still a month before the league season begins but the next round of the cup should be drawn soon
Ryan de Vries – FC Gifu (Japanese J2-League)
We get a lot of players signing with new clubs and having trouble getting a run early on with their new team so cool to see Ryan de Vries getting straight in there for FC Gifu. He came off the bench for the last seven minutes in a 3-2 win over JEF United Chiba in their third game of the new season. The goals will surely follow soon.
Up Next: Travelling to Kyoto Sanga on Saturday at 7.00pm (NZT)
Erin Nayler– Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)
No rest here after the international break, Erin Nayler’s Bordeaux team were back at it against Rodez. A team in the relegation zone but one that’s surprisingly tough to beat on their own turf, only one loss in their last six home games. Rodez scored first thanks to Flavie Lemaitre but two goals in eight second half minutes from Sousa Feitoza and Nadjma Ali Nadjim had Bordeaux in front… before Lemaitre equalised in the 82nd minute. Still, that’s 14 games for Erin Nayler in the French top flight this season, finally getting those regular games after a couple years of jumping around for the right situation, which is brilliant.
Up Next: Home to Guingamp at 3.00am on Monday (NZT)
Jake Gleeson & Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)
The Timbers made four changes to the lineup that lost their opening match of the MLS season last week but Jake Gleeson maintained his starter’s gloves and not only that but Bill Tuiloma was elevated to the bench. And they were up against a New York Red Bulls team that were preparing for a CONCACAF Champions League game and therefore picked what was effectively a second XI to play Portland.
Sounds like the scene was all set then, right? Wrong. NYRB opened the scoring in the 18th minute through 17-year-old Ben Miles and while Gleeson was able to make another couple stops to keep it close, the team weren’t able to keep their opponents from piling on the pressure and they had their own mistakes and miscommunication to blame. That and possibly some disjointed preparation after the game kicked off 20 minutes late because the New Jersey cops had accidentally directed the Portland team bus in the wrong direction.
Tuiloma never got on the park and that ended up being a good thing. The Timbers hung on until the last quarter of an hour and then conceded three goals to lose 4-0. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored one and Carlos Rivas got two. It was ugly, PT coach Gio Savarese pretty much said the team gave up after conceding the second. At least they get a week off to fix some of this now.
Up Next: Sunday March 25 is the next one, away to FC Dallas at 8.45am (NZT)
Tommy Smith, Kip Colvey & Deklan Wynne – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)
If the Champions League was still preseason for Uncle Tony’s Rapids then the same can’t be said for the team’s belated start to the MLS season up against New England Revolution. Curiously four players were loaned out to the Rapids’ USL affiliate, Charlotte Independence, earlier in the week and none of them were Deklan Wynne, despite that being his expected destination from the moment he signed. Yet he’s been around the first team for their Champions League games and with Wynne expected to drop out of the XI for the MLS opener, defender Kortne Ford did an MCL in training and will miss 8-10 weeks. Axel Sjoberg might have replaced him except he was still suspended from last season. Which meant an MLS debut for Deklan Wynne.
The first half was a quiet one, although Tommy Smith did put some of his Ipswich tricks to work by getting up with a strong header from a corner which might have been trouble had it not gone straight at the keeper. It was maybe the only thing of interest in the first half and then New England scored straight away afterwards through Diego Fagundez. Colorado got a great chance to get back into it with a penalty awarded for a foul on Jack McBean but Jack Price, who took the kick, saw a tame effort saved and then unbelievably lifted the rebound over the top with a wide open goal before him.
Hudson chucked on rookie Niki Jackson to try make the difference… and he immediately did, heading in the leveller on his MLS debut. Good on that lad, however the draw wasn’t to be. With stoppage time basically up, the Rapids were shaped to defend a free kick on the edge of their penalty area. Chris Tierney looked to whip it in with his left foot but Tim Howard saw it coming and moved to his own left. The ball took a deflection off the wall and Howard lost it, sailing past him for the 93rd minute winner. Guuuuts.
And for those of you nasty Anti-Hudsonites, here’s some funny footage of the bloke pulling it out of his usual media textbook by finding the moral positives from a frustrating defeat. It’s weird seeing this in such a different context, aye?
Up Next: Another week off before hosting Sporting Kansas City at 2.00pm on Sunday 25 March (NZT)
Niko Kirwan – AC Mestre (Italian Serie C)
Here’s one for you, if you haven’t already heard then the word is that Niko ‘Son of John’ Kirwan is in line for an All Whites call up in the upcoming squad to play Canada. He’s been getting games for AC Mestre over in Italy although that’s third tier football and it’s his first season there. The All Whites squad – Fritz Schmid’s first – hasn’t been named yet but should be confirmed pretty soon and it’s likely that the players were told well in advance, hence Kirwan’s news leaking out there. Unless something got lost in translation, of course.
Kirwan has 18 Serie C games for Mestre, seven of them starts. The team is currently on a three games winning streak and sitting sixth on the ladder so they’ve got a great chance of making the promotion playoffs… although a few niggling injuries have limited Niko lately and he didn’t play their most recent game. He did do an interview with Tutto Mercato though, here are a couple badly translated clips…
Did you expect to play so much? “Actually no... when I arrived there was a gap in quality. I worked hard and the coach gave me confidence”
How was the possibility of playing in Italy born? “I was in New Zealand, I wanted to play here. I sent videos and Mestre called me. I spoke with them immediately: this one is either going or breaking it.”
What differences do you see between the New Zealand championship and the Serie C? “Last year I played for Team Wellington, a club with which we won the New Zealand championship. The talent is there but tactically we were not very well prepared. But it wasn’t a team of bricks. Maybe on the level of Serie D, say, mid-table, just because the preparation is missing. New Zealand is growing a lot: most children play football, not rugby. Here we see videos, we study the opponents, the line must be straight in defense ... we didn’t do that back there.”
Did you know his dad was an All Blacks?
Up Next: Ravenna vs Mestre, 4.30am on Monday (NZT)
Max Crocombe – Salford City (English National League North)
Damn, rate a bit of that. But why such a sweet moment? Dunno really, probably got something to do with the last minute penalty that he saved to preserve the game at 1-1 against Tamworth right before they went down the other end and snatched a dramatic winner.
The win keeps them right up there with Harrogate at the top of the ladder, behind only on goal difference, as Salford look to book their promotion to the National League. Their recent form has been scratchy so this was exactly what they needed. Shout out to Max for getting to be a hero.
Up Next: Salford vs Spennymoor Town, Sunday at 4.00am (NZT)
Whack an ad to show some lovin’ towards your mates at The Niche Cache