Flying Kiwis – March 12

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Stefan Marinovic – Bristol City (English Championship)

Got him. Yes. Get in. After unsuccessful trials with Hull City and Rangers, Big Stef’s got his immediate future sorted with a deal at Bristol City that’ll take him through until the end of the season. Hopefully this’ll earn him some time to get a foothold beyond that too, either with The Robins or elsewhere in the wider British footy scene where he seems to have been targeting lately with those other trials.

Tell you what, he must have a decent agent. Stef got a little bit scapegoated at Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS for playing behind a rubbish defence and so that experience didn’t quite end up as the stepping stone it should have been and safe to say the rest of his club record in the lower leagues of Germany isn’t the most enamouring to outsiders… but it’s his international workload that speaks for itself. Glad to see him getting a chance at a level he certainly has the ability to hold down at least a squad role. The rest is up to how he performs and given he’s been hard on that trial circuit the last two months it seems he’s not taking anything for granted. That’s the way to do it.

Lee Johnson, BCFC head coach: “We would like to give Stefan a very warm welcome to Bristol City. He has impressed in training during his trial this week and we are looking forward to him making a contribution to the squad.”

Now, obviously a team in the English Championship don’t sign a free agent goalie in March and then expect him to be their new number one in perpetuity. There has been an injury crisis that’s facilitated this. Bristol City, who are sixth on the ladder in the Championship but without a win in their last three, have used three different keepers in the league this season. Niki Mäenpää, the regular starter (and a Finish international) is currently doubtful after going off injured last game while backup Frank Fielding is done for the season with a broken hand. 22 year old Max O’Leary has played five games too, though the majority of his senior footy to date has been on loan at clubs like Bath City and Solihull Moors, playing at the same level as Max Crocombe is currently at. (Crocombe’s been on the bench for all 36 league games so far this season, backing up Chris Neal. Max’s four appearances this season have all come in cup comps). They’ve also recalled development keeper Jojo Wollacott from loan as extra cover. Anyway… (yes, he got a BBC writeup): “Bristol City have signed New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic on a short-term deal, with Frank Fielding expected to miss the rest of the season. Fielding, 30, has not played since the 3-2 defeat by Norwich City on 23 February after fracturing his hand. Niki Maenpaa, 34, was forced off during last Saturday's draw at Preston North End with a calf problem. Kiwi Marinovic, 27, has been capped 23 times and spent 2018 with Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer. He could make his Robins debut against Championship leaders Leeds United on Saturday, with academy product Max O'Leary, who came on for Maenpaa at Deepdale, another option.”

Of course he’s the second kiwi to sign with Bristol City over the last 12 months, with Footy Ferns forward Katie Rood on the books at the women’s team. She’s currently out on loan at Lewes.

Yeah so Bristol City played Leeds United on Sunday morning, starting a busy week in which they are also at home to Ipswich at 8:45am on Wednesday before getting some time off as the FA Cup rolls around on the weekend. With Finland’s Finest not ready to test that calf muscle out it meant a decision for the gaffer with either Marinovic going from out of the picture to starting against the league leaders (and then Ipswich who are rock bottom – obviously missing that Tommy Smith influence) in a week having not played a competitive game since the MLS season ended in October… or giving a relatively inexperienced O’Leary a crack in his first full season with the senior squad.

I mean, obviously O’Leary had the advantage. Familiar with the club, already played this season, plus he’s an academy grad which always goes well with the fans. Sure enough O’Leary did indeed get the nod, though Big Stef was a welcome face on the bench.

Unfortunately City were a bit average and only managed four total shots against the league leaders as they were comfortably outplayed. However after former Robin Luke Ayling set up Patrick Bamford for the opener in the ninth minute, Leeds were also a bit sloppy in turning their dominance into goals. But with Bristol City failing to really threaten them it didn’t matter. 1-0 was the final score.

No word on how Mäenpää is tracking and whether he’ll be back any time soon. He was supposed to have a scan last week and they said they’d know within 24 hours of that how he was going but within 24 hours they signed Marinovic instead. Very curious… but there’s been no announcement as of writing this. Here’s the gaffer talking last week…

Lee Johnson: “We’re giving [Niki] time, to assess, to see how he is. Naturally he’ll have a scan in the next 24 hours but you want to give the injury time to settle down. We’re not sure yet if it was tightness or a tear. He’s moving very well in terms of walking around, without crutches or a boot or anything like that, so we’re hopeful but we can't be certain.”

Up Next: BCFC vs Ipswich, 8.45am on Wednesday (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

It seems like the whispers were true. Minnesota United might genuinely be good this season, their third year in existence. They’re already doing things they’ve never achieved before with a blitz of a second half away to San Jose Earthquakes giving them back to back wins to start the season and both of them away from home – the club’s first ever back to back away wins. Which is useful because they have five away games to start the season before their new specially built stadium opens in April. A 19,400 seater football stadium. No dumb NFL lines on the field. No running track. No generally silly multipurpose nonsense like you get so often in the USA (and, let’s be honest, in Aotearoa too). And the Loons are stepping it up right on time.

It was all scoreless at the half and the Quakes had been unlucky not to go ahead just before the break when veteran striker Chris Wondolowski hit the post. But a video referal found a handball in the box in the 49th min (fair enough too) and up stepped Darwin Quintero to score. Quintero, who if you don’t read FKs enough is absolutely brilliant, went on to set up another one for Miguel Ibarra on the break and an own goal with quarter of an hour to go polished off a 3-0 win.

What was Boxy up to? Whatever it took. He was about a metre away from the own goal at the far post and if it had bounced back into play rather than going in off the upright then he’d have had a simple tap in. But the clean sheet will have mattered more, especially after he shanked a clearance from a cross late on and almost let Wondo in for a late consolation. No worries. Minny only kept two clean sheets in all of 2018 and this was their first since last May.

Jeff Heath on his defence: “I just thought we were in good spots. We talked about defending the danger areas and places that we’ve identified within the 18-yard box, and every time I looked up with the ball went wide (guys were in proper spots). … I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the team defended the box.”

It was an unchanged starting XI from week one and it’ll probably be an unchanged one again next week the way they’re going.

Up Next: LA Galaxy vs Minny, Sunday at 3.30pm (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

Yeah nah, another one where it didn’t really go The Woodsman’s way. Up against Liverpool at Anfield that was always likely to be the case. But Burnley did take the lead in the first half when Ash Westwood swung in a corner in the sixth minute that floated directly into the goal at the far post. Plenty of swerve and some confused defenders. Probably shouldn’t have been allowed though with James Tarkowski leap-frogging keeper Alisson, who was booked for his protests.

But some sharp work from Mo Salah helped set up Roberto Firmino for the equaliser just shy of twenty mins and Tarky did his best to make up for the non-foul earlier with a failed clearance that allowed the ball through to the Brazilian. Then some more sloppy defence might have led to a penalty had Sadio Mane not stroked it into the top corner anyway.

That had the Reds in control and they scored a third in the second half when Tom Heaton’s goal kick went straight to Mo Salah and Firmino ended up polishing it off. Chris Wood was summoned back to the bench as part of a double sub with ten to play, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Peter Crouch entering the game. And those two were involved in a cheeky goal in stoppage time which game Burnley the tiniest of hopes if there was time for another goal after Gudmo’s strike. There was… but it was Sadio Mane who scored it. Just too fast. Too sharp. Liverpool won it 4-2. Chris Wood didn’t have a shot and had fewer touches in 79 minutes than Jordan Henderson did in 23. Just one of those games.

Probably a fair enough result, you can’t expect to be fighting relegation and toppling sides in the title race. But with results elsewhere going the way they did, with Cardiff, Newcastle, Brighton, and Southampton all winning, that leaves Burnley just two points clear of Cardiff for the final relegation spot. The effects of that excellent run of results to start the year has disappeared with three straight defeats and with eight games left they’ve got work to do yet.

Up Next: Burnley vs Leicester, 4am on Sunday (NZT)

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

That’s not an ad for Nike, big corporations are all thieves, instead that’s just what Ali Riley, Hannah Wilkinson, and Annalie Longo have been up to lately. Lots of extravaganza as we edge closer to the World Cup.

Up Next: Back into the club footy on Thursday morning at 8.00 away to Liverpool (NZT)

Elliot Collier – Memphis 901 FC (American USL Championship)

Nothing unexpected here at all, it had long been rumoured that Collier would join USL lot Memphis 901 for the upcoming season (with an option to recall him for the Chicago Fire if they clear up an international spot). It had been mentioned a couple weeks back in Chi-town and since then he’s scored four goals for Memphis in preseason – including a hatty against University of Memphis ten days ago (you can see one of those goals at 8:08 in the vid below). Already written a heap on this matter and Collier, a fringe MLS talent as it stands, would do well to have a season just scoring goals and building his profile at USL level. Plus we need a few more lads in the USL with Cory Brown, Myer Bevan, and Monty Patterson all departing.

Head coach Tim Mulqueen: “We’re extremely pleased to have Elliot join our squad this season. He’s an exceptional young forward with great technique, energy and a high soccer IQ. We expect him to add some versatility to our attack.”

Sporting director Andrew Bell: “Anytime you can add quality players to your squad is very helpful, particularly at this stage of the preseason. Elliot is a very good young player and we’re excited to have him.”

Up Next: Home to Loudon United at 1pm on Sunday (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – MKE Ankaragücü (Turkish SuperLig)

Nah no goals or assists this time, and a nil-all draw at home against Bursaspor was a bit of a frustrating result when a win against the team two places below would have meant a jump from 13 to ninth on the table. Into the top half. But there’s still nine more games to make that happen. Boyd played a fill ninety minutes and was involved in most of his team’s best work but they just weren’t able to break down their opponents, though on the flipside they also weren’t broken down themselves. All good then.

Up Next: Yenu Malatyaspor vs Ankaragücü, Sunday at 11.30pm (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

No rest over here. Three games for the Ferns and straight into the Bordeaux stuff. Erin Nayler played all 270 minutes at the Cup of Nations and another 90 here on Monday morning. Four games in two weeks with a couple France-Aussie flights in the middle. Big effort.

And the rewards were there as Bordeaux won a feisty one 2-1 away to Fleury 91 (a club that Nayler spent some time on loan at during her Lyon days). A double for Vivienne Asseyi did the damage, with both sides getting a red card each in the aftermath of the penalty that Asseyi scored the winner from in the 77th min. Lots of drama there, clearly, but the end result is another win and Bordeaux remain in third place on the table, which would be massive if they can hold on there… which might be tough with Lyon up next.

Up Next: Bordeaux vs Lyon, 2.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Chuck up a round of applause because The Shrimps smacked Forest Green Rovers 3-0 on the weekend. A team still in the hunt for playoffs but Rhys Oates snuck in at the far post for a sixth minute lead and then after withstanding some serious pressure back the other way Aaron Collins picked out the bottom corner to make it 2-0 going into the break. FGR weren’t going down easy but a fine display from keeper Mark Halstead was backed up by his defence, Steven Old included, and Alex Kenyon’s second half goal put an end to any doubt. Nice way to bounce back after a couple defeats – this was their equal biggest win of the campaign and keeps up their trend of getting key results just as they find themselves sinking a little too deep for comfort. It’s likely that centreback Sam Lavelle misses another week or two, which should keep Oldie in the starters for all that time.

Up Next: Wednesday at 8.45am at home to MK Dons (NZT)

Deklan Wynne – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

Still no Tommy Smith as he recovers from injury although without him at least it means a start – at centreback no less – for Deklan Wynne. Pretty sure Wynnebags has played across the entire backline in his time with the Rapids, that’s Uncle Tony for ya. There hasn’t been an official confirmation of the severity of whatever Smithy is dealing with yet but he was again listed as questionable for the game with a knee injury and again didn’t kit up at all. Certainly didn’t help that fellow defenders Kortne Ford and Kofi Opare are both out hurt at the moment too – hence Wynne in the middle.

But these are the Rapids we’re talking about so it’s always going to be weird and ten minutes into their game against the Seattle Sounders they were 2-0 down. Tim Howard had to be sharp to deny Raul Ruidiaz after one minute when he snuck in behind the defence. It was the only save Howie would make all day. Kelvin Leerdam scored in the fifth minute after some awful defence down the right flank had allowed the Sounders into the box. Wynne failed to clear the ball but then to his credit came up with a strong block, only the ball ended up with Leerdam who whacked it in on the volley from the edge of the area and nobody was able to get in the way of it despite the crowded area. Three minutes later, not even that, Raul Ruidiaz (if you recognise the name it’s because he’s a Peru international) swept in a second with a nice finish.

With that the game was more or less over. Like, the Rapids had a couple half chances but never really looked like scoring while the Sounders, after their rapid start against the Rapids, were mostly happy to stay in control knowing that a clean sheet was all they needed from that point. They got it and they won it 2-0.

Up Next: Back home against Sporting KC, Monday at 2pm (NZT)

Ryan de Vries – FC Gifu (Japanese J2-League)

Third game of the new season and RDV is underway. Not one but two goals in a 2-1 win over Fagiano Okayama as Gifu claimed their second victory of the new campaign. Promotion is always the target for a club in this position. The bloke scored in bundles for Auckland City (and Waitakere before that) in the NZ Premiership so it was a little odd that he only scored four goals in 26 games in his first season in Japan. Obviously need some time to settle in to a new league, standard, and country but yeah. A goal every 418.3 minutes for FC Gifu compared to the goal every 52.8 minutes in his last season for ACFC.

But he scored three of those 2018 goals in his last four games and he’s now got two in 270 minutes in 2019 so looks like the second season could be the one where the 27 year old one-cap All White really announces himself. The fact he’s played every minute of their first three games is as important to that feeling too. The first strike came after half an hour with a simple header after Yuya Yamagishi had stolen the ball off a defender and chipped it over with the keeper stuck in no-man’s land. Lee Yong-jae then equalised early in the second half after some odd pinball defending but no worries because within ten minutes the notorious RDV had scored again with a funky backheeled finish from the corner of the six yard box that looked suspiciously like an own goal but he seems to have been credited with it so no arguments here.

There’s a quick chat to the crowd from the man in question at the end of this vid…

Up Next: Home to Kagoshima United, 6pm on Sunday (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Fresh from scoring an absolute worldie at the Cup of Nations, Bott’s about to kick into a fresh new season in Sweden with every likelihood that she’ll be a first XI player. After joining midseason from Germany in 2018, she went on to start eleven games as a couple late wins booked safety for Vittsjö. Based on the lineup here for the friendly match against Hässleholms (Vittsjö won it 2-1).

She might have to do it alone on a Flying Kiwis level though, with Hannah Wilkinson’s injury meaning her contract wasn’t picked up in the meantime. Once she’s fit again there might be a change to that circumstance but at the moment nothing’s gonna happen until that point when Wilkie’s playing footy and scoring goals again (and obviously the target at the moment is World Cup first and foremost).

The Damallsvenskan begins in April. They’d have been into it already with the Svenska Cupen group stage had they qualified for that but a 3-2 defeat away to Jitex back in October (after extra time and everything) meant they kinda shockingly failed to make it that far. Oh well.

Up Next: KIF Örebro vs Vittsjö on Monday 15 April at 2am, that’s the first league game (NZT)

Logan Rogerson - Carl Zeiss Jena (German Liga 3)

Up Next: Sort that knee out, son

Jesse Edge – Podbrezová (Slovakian Super Liga)

Yeah okay, mate. This was a game between Djurgårdens and Hammarby in the Swedish Cup, with the home side winning 4-2 on penalties to advance to the semi-finals (where they’ll play BK Häcken on Sunday). We’re talking top flight Swedish clubs too so there you go.

It’s all a little cryptic and that keeps up the delicious theme of some of JE’s recent twitter/IG posts, but obviously he’s not playing for Podbrezová any longer because they had a game on the weekend. No word of any transfer but there was this from ten days ago…

Gefle IF are a division one side after relegation last season. Relegated alongside IFK Värnamo where Tyler Lissette and Francis De Vries are on the books. Understand that Jess was a trialist with Gefle, which makes sense because they’re not a Stockholm club. Unless that bit was just a tease. Hey, this is fun!

Up Next: ???

The USL Crew

Bill Tuiloma (Portland Timbers 2) – Working his way back from injury, Tui took part in the T2’s opening game of the season. He played 77 mins before being replaced on the way to a 1-1 draw away to Tulsa Roughnecks. Modou Jadama scored the goal, he and Tui were two of seven Timbers contracted players to feature on loan in the game. Billy T went close to scoring himself with a header over the bar from a corner and he cracked another one on goal from range stepping forwards out of defence but it was saved. With minutes under his belt he’ll be a good shot at being on the bench for the MLS team next time.

James Musa (Phoenix Rising) – Crucially, The Moose has now gotten his green card and can be classed as a domestic player which does wonders for his chances of getting back into the MLS after a brief stint with Sporting KC back when.

It was a wild start to the USL season for Phoenix too. James Musa has been involved in back to back USL championship games and lost them both (though he was injured for the playoffs last season) so third time lucky hopefully and they showed some grit in the opener away to San Antonio with three equalisers on the way to a 3-3 draw. Musa was subbed off after an 80th minute own goal from Adam Jahn but the hosts in front, Phoenix chasing a goal and sacrificing their defensive midfielder, and it worked with a strike from Jason Johnson in the third minute of injury time. Sweet as. If the Rising are anything like last season they won’t concede another three goals for the whole rest of the next two months.

Elliot Collier (Memphis 901 FC) – Ninety minutes for Collier on debut for Memphis against Tampa Bay Rowdies. No goals though, as a fourth minute penalty for the away side was the difference in a 1-0 defeat. Not a lot of chances for either team but cool to see Collier straight in there as starting centre forward.

Kyle Adams (Rio Grande Valley) – Bit of up and bit of down. RGV went down 1-0 to the curiously named Tacoma Defiance but Kyle Adams, returning for his second season in the USL, was named as captain for the game. He was undercover one of the best kiwi performers in the league in 2018 but played for a dead average team so didn’t get to gather much hype compared to some of the other NZers who struggled for goals/games in the same competition. If the Toros can step it up this year then Adams’ career should be in a nice place.

Sam Brotherton (North Carolina FC) – Looking to get his career back on track after an unfortunate time at an unfortunate club with Sunderland, Brotherton looks to be a first teamer at North Carolina, playing the entire game at centreback as they got their season off to a brilliant start with a 4-1 win over Louisville City.

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