Soccer: Christie out to impress against Jordan

By Michael Brown

New Zealand's Jeremy Christie during the Confederations Cup Group A soccer match in Rustenburg, South Africa. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand's Jeremy Christie during the Confederations Cup Group A soccer match in Rustenburg, South Africa. Photo / Getty Images

Jeremy Christie's decision to join Waitakere United two months ago didn't pan out as he had hoped but selection for tonight's New Zealand A game against Jordan has justified his decision to return to this country as he attempts to force his way back into the All Whites squad.

Christie has been something of a forgotten man of New Zealand football following the 2010 World Cup, when he played in two games in South Africa. He played for Tampa Bay in the second-tier North American Soccer League but a hip injury sidelined him for a year and he's since struggled to find a professional club.

He spent time trialling in the UK and also had some interest from clubs in the US but, at 30 and coming back from a serious injury, was seen as damaged goods. instead, he decided a stint in the ASB Premiership might put him back in Ricki Herbert's thinking ahead of November's World Cup playoff.

Even that didn't go to plan, and he saw little game time with Waitakere, but tonight's match represents a chance.

"Having this game has made coming back worthwhile because it's a game against good opposition and with good players," Christie said. "It's a chance for me to get back in front of Ricki and the coaching staff and show them where I'm at.

"I'm fit and feeling good now. I wasn't able to run for nine months but I did the maximum amount of rehab to get it right and hopefully I've got another six or seven years left in the game."

Christie, who returns to the US on Wednesday in the hope of finding another NASL club, is just one of a number of players hoping to impress Herbert in the game against Jordan.

The All Whites are entering a hugely-important phase. They are likely to play games in August, September and October before the big one - the home and away intercontinental playoff against the fourth-best side from North and Central America - and competition for spots is growing.

In reality, there are few vacancies in the All Whites but it won't hurt for anyone in the New Zealand A squad made up of mainly domestically-based players, fringe All Whites and a handful of youngsters about to head to Turkey for the Under-20 World Cup to have a good game.

There is one vacancy at goalkeeper following the retirement of Mark Paston, - Scott Basalaj and Jacob Spoonley have been given an opportunity in this game - and Herbert would love to solve their long-term issues at right-back.

Christie has played at fullback at international level but he feels most comfortable in central midfield, where Herbert is still to settle on a partner for the increasingly-impressive Michael McGlinchey.

New Zealand Football opted to field a New Zealand A side as opposed to the All Whites against Jordan because most first-choice players are on holiday and, if they qualified for next year's Word Cup, this would be their only break until the end of that campaign.

It suits players like Christie, Aaron Clapham, Ian Hogg and Cameron Howieson, who get a chance, but they will come up against a strong Jordan outfit.

The All Whites beat them 3-1 in Amman in 2009, when they used it as a buildup to the World Cup playoff against Bahrain, but Jordan have improved dramatically since then and still hold realistic ambitions of qualifying for next year's World Cup.

It's quite an achievement for a nation who have reached the fourth round of the Asian qualifiers for the first time and they are second in their group behind Japan, who have already qualified, after beating Australia (2-1) and Japan (2-1).

They have two matches remaining and lie one point ahead of Australia, who have a game in hand, and the two countries meet in a crucial qualifier in Melbourne on June 11.

New Zealand A side to play Jordan at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, tonight (7.30pm): Scott Basalaj, Andrew Durante, Aaron Scott, Tim Myers, Ian Hogg, Cameron Howieson, Cameron Lindsay, Luke Rowe, Aaron Clapham, Jake Butler, Jacob Spoonley, Jeremy Christie, Ivan Vicelich, Louis Fenton, Tyler Boyd, James Musa.

- APNZ

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