Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Five lessons we learned from the All Whites US tour

All Whites captain Winston Reid has reminded the country of his class with his return to international football. Photo / Photosport
All Whites captain Winston Reid has reminded the country of his class with his return to international football. Photo / Photosport

Quality engenders quality

If there is a learning for New Zealand Football from the recent tour, it is chasing quality matches pays off. The games against Mexico and the United States were great spectacles. The All Whites raised their game and it was a chance for the likes of Chris Wood and Winston Reid to illustrate their quality. It's never easy to organise friendlies, but the recent matches against the likes of Thailand, Myanmar and Oman (against players drawn from their domestic leagues) were fairly pointless. As often happens, New Zealand played down to the level of their opposition and then had to wear criticism for relatively poor results.

Holding midfielder quandary

We are no closer to knowing who should fill the defensive midfielder role for the All Whites, one of the most important in modern football. Michael McGlinchey had an impressive work-rate in North America - one of only four players to play every minute of both games - but he is suited to a more attacking role.

Bill Tuiloma has shown glimpses of his potential at this level, but still has more to prove. Spanish-born Albert Riera, if he becomes available, is an unknown quantity in the international arena.

Wood reaches new levels

This tour marked a coming of age for Wood. It's hard to believe he's still only 24 but the Leeds striker reached new heights over the last week. As well as a relentless work-rate, as the lone ranger up front, Wood also demonstrated the value of his long apprenticeship in English football. His vision set up the goal against Mexico and he produced two moments of sublime skill against the US, especially the volley in the second half in Washington DC. Wood, who has scored 18 goals in 44 internationals, is also on track to break existing appearance (Ivan Vicelich, 88) and goal scoring (Vaughan Coveny, 29) records.

Reminder from Reid

Reid gave a reminder of his class in North America. For various reasons, he has appeared only four times in the two-year Anthony Hudson era and played just 13 of 40 All Whites games since the 2010 World Cup. But that infrequency doesn't really matter, as long as he plays the big matches in the next 12 months. Reid exhibited a Ryan Nelsen-like effect on the team, especially in the match against the US when he was one of the best players on the field.

"It is just about managing things - that's the most important thing," Reid told the Herald on Sunday late last year. "I've had a lot of conversations with Anthony and he understands that. It's getting tougher. It's not like before, when I was 21. But if I am fit, and I feel I can genuinely give 100 per cent, then I go."

Limited depth at fullback

The wide defensive positions have been an issue with the All Whites for an age, right back to the Ricki Herbert era when Tony Lochhead was the only left-sided option and a multitude of options were tried on the right. Deklan Wynne made a solid return against Mexico after his eligibility-related absence, and Chesterfield's Liam Graham showed some promise in his first outings for the national team. But Kip Colvey struggled on the left against the US and Louis Fenton has yet to convince against non-Oceania opposition.

- NZ Herald

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