Ben Waine’s breakthrough year as a new All White and emerging A-League striker might have another highlight — the chance to play against FC Barcelona.
He’s one of five Wellington Phoenix players shortlisted to play for an A-League All Stars team in the exhibition game against the Spanish giants on May 25.
Waine and teammates Gael Sandoval, Scott Wootton, Reno Piscopo and Sam Sutton are in with a chance of selection for the All Stars team to play at the revamped Accor Stadium in Sydney.
Main photo: Waine celebrates scoring for the Phoenix at Auckland’s Eden Park last month. Image: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Five outfield players from each of the 12 Isuzu UTE A-League clubs and an additional five goalkeepers have been chosen by a panel of nine experts.
Fans can now vote to select the first 13 A-Leagues All Stars, with head coach Dwight Yorke and his assistants to pick the next 15 before A-League Commissioner Greg O’Rourke choses the final two to ensure that every club is represented and that no club has more than five players in the 30 that is announced on May 19.
How to vote
Voting is open from now until May 12, with fans asked to pick a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers in a 4-3-3 formation.
Click here to vote >>>>>
Sandoval is the Phoenix’s equal leading scorer in the A-League this season with six goals in 18 appearances. The Mexican midfielder has also set up four other league goals since joining the club on loan from Chivas.
Wootton has had a similar impact since arriving in the January transfer window. The experienced English defender has started all 16 of the Phoenix’s A-League matches since making his debut in a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory on February 9.
It was the first clean sheet the team had recorded in the league this season. The Nix have kept opponents scoreless in a further four matches with Wootton at the heart of defence. He has also scored two goals, both in wins against Brisbane Roar and Western United.
Piscopo is another who has been instrumental in the Phoenix being on the verge of a place in the finals. The young midfielder, who is in his third season with the club, has scored three goals and provided three assists in 19 league matches. His three goals came in an impressive four-game span in February.
Sutton has become a key member of the Wellington squad, despite only turning 20 last December. The versatile left back has made 19 A-League appearances this season, providing three assists. Two of the assists came in the 3-1 win over Macarthur FC in February. He’s also shown his versatility, playing as both a defensive and attacking midfielder when required.
Waine, another 20-year-old, has chipped in with a number of valuable goals this A-League season. He’s found the back of the net five times in just 11 starts, including scoring the only goal in the Phoenix’s 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at Eden Park last month.
All 30 players selected in the A-Leagues All Stars squad will be regarded as All Stars even if they don’t feature in the final playing squad on May 25.
Once the identities of the two teams in the A-League Grand Final are known, their players in the All Stars squad will be given “non-playing” status – keeping the honour of being part of the cohort of All Stars chosen for this year.
The other 20 or more will then assemble in Sydney for a camp like no other, preparing to join forces with players who are normally their opponents to take on the might of Barcelona.
This story is reproduced with the assistance of the Wellington Phoenix.