Wellington Phoenix is one of the ten clubs that play in the Hyundai A-League in Australia, as the national league in New Zealand is only Semi-professional. With the season winding down the Phoenix are in a position to not only make the 6 team playoffs, but currently would host a first round match. As well should results go in their favor in the last 2 weeks, they could earn a top-2 position.
The playoffs in Australia have an interesting setup. Those teams that finish the season in positions 3 through 6 will meet each other in one-off matches of 3 v. 6 and 4 v. 5. The winners will then face one another in at the lowest remaining seed’s home.
Meanwhile teams finishing in the top 2 positions have a home-and-home meeting. The winner of that will reach the grand final of the playoffs. The loser of those matches will be then get a matchup against the winner of the other side of the playoffs. That winner then reaches the grand-final which is a one-off match. Confused Yet????
Currently the Phoenix are sitting in 4th place with just one match left, and at this point they are guaranteed finish no lower than 4th, which means they’ll host a first round playoff game. The last time they did so they advanced all the way to the Preliminary Final, which they lost in extra time.
The Phoenix are very much a squad who stays compact defensively and don’t beat themselves conceding only 30 goals so far this season. Unfortunately, they don’t score many goals, tied for third fewest in the league, which is the fewest of any team making the playoffs. You have to be concerned about their chances of advancing. Their opponents could be one of three clubs: Melbourne Heart who sit in 5th place, but have only a one point lead on 6th place Newcastle Jets, and 7th place Sydney FC.
This season saw the Phoenix defeat both Newcastle and Sydney in all three matches, While Melbourne Heart and Wellington split their matches equally, each winning one and the third was a draw.
In other news:
With the Olympics coming this Summer the “Oly-Whites” are currently in the Oceanic U-23 tournament, which is being played in Taupo on the North Island, roughly 80 miles from Auckland. Their group consists of only 3 teams, themselves, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. The Oly-Whites were victorious in their first match 1-0 , scoring the winning goal after going down to 10 men. Their second match is against Tonga, who lost their first match against PNG. Only one team from the region will qualify for London.
With the MLS season finishing up its second week it’s time to evaluate those Kiwi’s playing in America.
For the LA Galaxy: Andrew Boyens started in defense on Sunday and played all 90 minutes in their 3-1 victory over DC United. He also played in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League matchup against Toronto FC on March 7th starting and playing 87 minutes of the 2-2 draw. Also for the Galaxy is midfielder Dan Keat, who has featured in just one match, the 2nd leg of the Champions League match against Toronto. Keat came on as a 72nd Substitute as the Galaxy searched for an equalizer. They were unsuccessful in their attempts and subsequently knocked out 4-3. With the Galaxy surprisingly knocked out of the competition, it might be harder for Keat and Boyens to get regular playing time, although it was great to see Boyens get a full match in league play.
For the Portland Timbers: Jake Gleeson has been with the U-23 squad this week but was in the 18 as the backup keeper for the Timbers in their season opening 3-1 victory over Philadelphia. Barring an injury to #1 keeper Troy Perkins, it will be difficult for Gleeson to get much more than the occasional match.
For the Vancouver Whitecaps: Defender Michael Boxall has seen the season not get off to a great start, as he has not been in the 18 for either of the Whitecaps first two games. Considering the surprisingly hot start for the second year Vancouver (6 points) it could make it tougher for Boxall to figure into the starting 11.
I have scanned the rosters of all teams in Major League Soccer for New Zealanders and these are the only one I could find. If you know of another Kiwi plying his trade there please let me know.