Youngsters ready for a shot

TWO youngsters have a shot at making their Hyundai A-League debuts for the Wellington Phoenix this weekend as the New Zealand-based club faces another tough test away to Melbourne Victory.

Marco Rojas, 17, and Chinese under-23 international Jiang Chen have been named in an extended squad to cross the Tasman for Sunday-s clash with the Victory at Etihad Stadium.

With Phoenix and New Zealand national team head coach Ricki Herbert and the Phoenix-s six Kiwi internationals flying direct to Melbourne from Amman following the All Whites- 3-1 international friendly win against Jordan, the Phoenix have opted to take additional players as cover for any last-minute injury concerns that might arise.

That means Rojas and Chen could well earn their first Hyundai A-League 2009/10 caps for the Phoenix this weekend.

Hamilton teenager Rojas has a big admirer in Herbert and the Phoenix boss had earlier indicated his desire to give the young tearaway a shot against Adelaide United in Wellington last weekend. However, a calf strain forced Rojas out of that match, which ended in a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium.

Now, having shaken off that minor niggle, Rojas comes back into the reckoning for the round six showdown.

The shy and softly-spoken Rojas was quietly upbeat about his chances of turning out for the Phoenix in a competition game.

“I-m really excited but I-m just taking things as they go. If the chance comes then I-ll be stoked.”

Should Rojas get on at Etihad, it will be the biggest match of his hugely promising career to date.

“Of course it will be something special because I haven-t played in situations like that before. But I-m just concentrating on what I need to do. There-ll be nerves, sure, but if I get on I-ll get over those and just play the game.”

The match is an important one for the Phoenix and the Victory, with both teams looking to stay in touch with pacesetters Gold Coast United and Sydney FC.

Assistant coach Luciano Trani, in charge in the absence of Herbert during the week, said the Phoenix-s buildup to Sunday-s match had been “different” given the international duties of Herbert, the Kiwi representatives and Malta-s Manny Muscat.

“The group of players we have has been so resilient since day one. We-d previously had disruptions in the pre-season with the Confederations Cup and we were able to manage it and keep everyone focused on their responsibilities. Again, the guys have stepped up to this particular challenge and the way in which everyone has set their minds to the job at hand has been extremely pleasing.”

The former Victorian Premier League coach has huge respect for the Victory and the threat they pose.

“As a club they set the benchmark across the league on and off the pitch. They-ve been the best club since the inception of the competition and we want to emulate the success they-ve had and ensure we-re one of the top clubs now and in the future.”

While the Etihad cauldron could be understandably overwhelming for Rojas and Chen should they make the final 15, Trani believes the Phoenix-s youngsters have the right attitude to cope with the pressure.

“I actually think when the youngsters come on they have the capacity to surprise people. They have no fear and they have the talent and ability to foot it with anyone. Both of them have good people around them with the more experienced players and they-ve impressed with their attitude, work ethic and natural talent.”

Sunday, 13 September 2009
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Local kickoff:
3pm (AEST), 5pm (NZST)
Referee: Craig Zetter

Live and exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC (Melbourne) and The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington).

Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. NEY FABIANO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Nathan ELASI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Nick WARD, 23. Adrian LEIJER *one to be omitted*

In: Carlos HERNANDEZ (return from international duty), Kevin MUSCAT (return from injury)
Out: Billy CELESKI (knee – season)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (groin – 2 weeks)

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 16. David MULLIGAN, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *five to be omitted*

In: Manny MUSCAT (return from international duty), Jiang CHEN (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Marco ROJAS (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Out: Nil
Unavailable: Adrian CACERES (hamstring – 1 week)

*Head-to-Head: Played 6: Melbourne Victory wins 3, Wellington Phoenix wins 1, Drawn 2