Ricki Herbert must put his faith in Marco Rojas

BILLY HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012
Marco Rojas
Getty Images
DOUBLE BLOW: All White Marco Rojas (left) scored twice for Melbourne Victory in their win over Wellington Phoenix.

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Ricki Herbert - the All Whites edition - needs to throw his weight behind Marco Rojas.

When Rojas was a Phoenix player, he felt sufficiently unloved - maybe he wasn't played enough, maybe he wasn't paid enough - and upped sticks for the Melbourne Victory.

The seriousness of that loss wasn't felt last season as Rojas struggled to reproduce his Nix form for the Victory, but it was delivered in painful fashion last week.

Against his former employers, the diminutive Kiwi was absolutely lethal, teaming with veteran Archie Thompson to form a Batman-and-Robin style Victory attack which was just too hot to handle.

Holy defence Batman! The Victory sprung Wellington's offside trap time and again, once with the aid of a perfectly weighted first-time ball from the caped crusader.

Kazaam! Thompson punctures the Nix on the right before sliding a pass to his sidekick Rojas for Melbourne's opening goal.

Kapow! Thompson flies down the left and with another measured pass sets the boy wonder up for the knockout punch.

The silver lining on that dark cloud is that Rojas is on our side when the All Whites tackle China on Wednesday, and this is where Herbert gets a second chance to maximise Rojas' talents.

Is the boy who's small in stature, but huge on talent, to be a bit-part player for the national team, to be sat on the bench as he has for most of this World Cup campaign, and denied the run of games it'll take before he's able to influence the All Whites in the way he now influences Melbourne?

Or, at 21, is he the real deal, a player who can be the creative attacking force the All Whites have lacked for decades?

His growing effectiveness for the Victory - that's four goals already this season - suggests the latter.

Herbert has a difficult job picking his best attacking line up from a list which includes Smeltz, Killen, Wood, Fallon, Barbarouses, Brockie and Rojas.

But with only a year until the All Whites meet Concacaf's fourth best team in a home-and-away showdown for a place in Brazil, Herbert needs to decide on his best team now to give it time to gel before D-Day.

He could start by taking a blank teamsheet. The first name he writes down will always be Ryan Nelsen. The second should be Marco Rojas.

Herbert - the Phoenix edition - also has work to do to bring his club team back up to speed. Last week's loss was surprising, not as much for the result, as in the way they allowed themselves to be torn apart for 60 minutes before substitutions took the heat out of the Australians.

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The players' pride will ensure Herbert gets a far more committed performance against Central Coast today, but with Paul Ifill not yet at top form and Louis Fenton no longer a surprise, the Phoenix need to find an attacking edge.

- Billy Harris is a former All White

- Sunday Star Times

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