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Rossi finding his Phoenix feet

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/10/2016 Cathy Walshe

Marco Rossi © Facebook/Wellington Phoenix FC Marco Rossi Wellington Phoenix's new Italian centre-back Marco Rossi's English may be a bit shaky, but there's nothing wrong with his Scottish.

It hasn't taken long for the not-so-subtle influence of Edinburgh-born coach Ernie Merrick to seep through.

"How you, Jimmy?" Merrick asked the 29-year-old Italian defender just before he fronted for media after training on Thursday.

"A reet, big man," Rossi shot back.

Rossi's better than all right, with a pedigree which includes time at Serie A and Serie B clubs in Italy, and national representation at age-group levels up to under-21.

He was a shining light for the Phoenix last Saturday in their A-League season-opening 1-0 loss to Melbourne City, marshalling a young and inexperienced back line in the absence of Wellington skipper Andrew Durante.

Missing five players on All Whites duty in the United States, the Phoenix regrouped after conceding a first-half goal but couldn't manage an equaliser even after City were reduced to 10 men for the last 30 minutes.

Through translator Valerio Raccuglia, the Phoenix's youth team coach, Rossi said the youthful back line had acquitted themselves well.

"It went well - in the first half, perhaps a bit of nerves. But in the second half, we played a good game and deserved a bit more than what we got.

"We could have scored, and kept them pretty much from shooting on our goal."

Nonetheless, Rossi said Durante's return was good news for Sunday's round two clash way to Perth Glory.

"Dura has lots of experience, he's played over 200 games and it's going to be very important having him back this week."

Merrick paid tribute to Rossi's work in organising a back line which included two 22-year-olds in Jacob Tratt and Dylan Fox, and an out-of-position 23-year-old striker in Adam Parkhouse.

"He was playing alongside a backline of basically three NPL players in Jacob, Dylan and Adam, and he organised that really, really well," Merrick said.

"Every game Marco has played has been super impressive - I think we've got one of the best cetre-backs in the league.

"It's very difficult to get past him, and his distribution out from the back is first class. I think we've got an absolute gem in him."

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