Soccer: Two key signings for Phoenix

The Wellington Phoenix have signed two key players for this season's A-League soccer campaign, coach Ricki Herbert said today.

Argentine midfielder Oscar Roberto Cornejo and rising Australian striker Mirjan Pavlovic have signed one-year deals, taking the Phoenix's squad to 19 players. At least 20 players signed by the August 4 deadline.

Herbert said both players impressed during trial stints in Wellington.

Cornejo - nicknamed Toto - made his first appearance for the Phoenix in the Wellington club's 2-1 win against Argentine superclub Boca Juniors.

Pavlovic, a strong 21-year-old striker who previously played in the A-League for the Newcastle Jets, is seen by the Phoenix as a player with massive potential.

Cornejo is a 27-year-old attacking midfielder who has previously played top-flight club football in his home country of Argentina as well as Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru.

Herbert said Cornejo had been signed to provide creative impetus in the Phoenix's midfield.

"Toto's the sort of player we think can circulate in and around the central midfield and provide the link between the front and the midfield.

"He's got all the skills and ability to create opportunities in the attacking third, whether it be with a deft pass or with his ability to beat a man," Herbert said.

"He's comfortable taking opposition players on one-on-one and he provides a different dimension to the team in the way he plays the game.

"It's fair to say we've probably lacked a player of Toto's creative quality in midfield in the past couple of seasons, so we're looking forward to seeing what he can deliver."

Pavlovic would also provide another good option in the Phoenix's strike force.

"Pav provides the depth we've been looking for as a central striker," said Herbert. "He has the ability to go directly at an opponent and directly at goal, and that's the key quality you want in a striker. He's also got a good eye for getting into space and putting himself in scoring positions.

"He's young and still learning his trade but we think this kid has the ability to become a very accomplished A-League player."

Indonesian international striker Bambang Pamungkas arrives in Wellington this weekend to begin a trial with the Phoenix.

- NZPA

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