All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic is enjoying being in a fresh environment as he presses for a starting place at the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS.
The 25-year-old from Auckland, who had three successful years with SpVgg Unterhaching in Germany, was a standout performer for the All Whites in the recent FIFA Confederations Cup.
He is excited to join the Whitecaps and play alongside fellow All Whites Deklan Wynne, Myer Bevan and New Zealander Francis De Vries at the club which has plenty of ambition.
“The main appeal of signing for Vancouver was a new challenge in a top league,” said Marinovic from Canada. “I am looking forward to testing myself against quality players in the MLS.”
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All Whites coach Anthony Hudson said the move will be a good one for Marinovic who has never lost his position as the No 1 keeper for the national team since he made his debut against South Korea in 2015.
“This is a great opportunity for Stef to go to another level,” said Hudson. “He has been superb for us in the past two years and has kept some very strong keepers out of the team. I thought he had a a very strong Confederations Cup. We want to see him playing regular first team football at a high level so when he comes into our environment he is ready to play at his best.”
Whitecaps FC Coach Carl Robinson said Marinovic’s signing was key to building depth right across their squad.
“We know we have David Ousted, who’s our number one, and Spencer Richey and Sean Melvin who are two up-and-coming young goalkeepers,” Robinson told the club website. “We needed to find someone who was able to compete with David and bring on the young ones as well and Stefan certainly fits that bill.”
Robinson said Marinovic has all the attributes you want in a goalkeeper.
“He’s big. He’s strong. He’s agile, and perhaps most importantly he’s a winner. He doesn’t like losing. I think all keepers are crazy. And they need to be crazy. In a good way.”
Robinson said Marinovic’s performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup put him in the limelight.
“Teams in England, teams all over were chasing him,” Robinson said of Marinovic. “Obviously, [Whitecaps FC goalkeeper coach] Stewart Kerr has analysed him at great length over the last month or so, knowing that [reserve keeper] Paolo Tornaghi was probably going to leave.”
Marinovic will be a key man in Hudson’s squad when they take on the Solomon Islands home and away in September in the OFC Final Stage of Qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The golden glove winner from the OFC Nations Cup in 2016 has not conceded a goal from regular play – Roy Krishna scored a penalty for Fiji last year – in the past nine internationals against Island nations.
It is a record that Marinovic is naturally proud of and one that he wants to see continue in the upcoming games against the Solomon Islands. He played in the game at last year’s OFC Nations Cup where they won 1-0 and is expecting a tough challenge.
“I don’t know what to expect from the Solomon Islands just yet other than a team that managed to push out both Papua New Guinea and Tahiti to win their group so we have to treat them with respect,” he said.
“I always look forward to coming home to play. This time it is for another final and everyone knows what is at stake.”
Marinovic said the FIFA Confederations Cup in June was a great experience, and the team will benefit hugely from competing against some of the world’s best teams, but ultimately they were disappointed with their results. That will spur them on as they look to become the third team from New Zealand to qualify for a FIFA World Cup.
“I am still disappointed we couldn’t get a result in Russia,” he said. “But I am now focused on the next four games for the All White as we look to secure our place at the World Cup.”
If they get past the Solomon Islands in the next two games, then the All Whites will have to beat the fifth-placed South American side to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
“It is of course exciting, but we are taking it one game at a time and hopefully before you know it we are back in Russia next year.”
OFC Final Stage of FIFA World Cup Qualifying
New Zealand v Solomon Islands
QBE Stadium, Auckland
Friday 1 September
Kick-off: 7.35pm (local time)
Buy Tickets here
Solomon Islands v New Zealand
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara
Tuesday 5 September
Kick-off: 2pm (local time)