2018 preseason - Stefan Marinovic - Vancouver Whitecaps
USA Today Sports

Tables turned for Whitecaps' Marinovic as he enters 2018 as starting GK

VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic last July, the addition raised a few eyebrows.

The Whitecaps already had David Ousted, a 'keeper many considered to be among the best in the league, along with a crop of talented young goalkeepers coming through their ranks.

Marinovic was already the first choice 'keeper with the New Zealand national team, and he made it clear upon arrival in Vancouver that he wasn't here to simply play second fiddle and sit on the bench.

The 26-year-old quickly battled to establish himself as the Whitecaps’ No. 1 by the end of the season, a rapid rise that surprised even Marinovic himself.

"[It was] a little bit of a surprise when the gaffer gave me the starting job," Marinovic told MLSsoccer.com. "I definitely felt in training that I was on par with David. David was a great goalkeeper and he has his strengths and I have mine. Maybe my strengths lent themselves a little bit more to the game that we were playing at the time towards the end of the season."

Marinovic cut a confident swagger out on the pitch, unfazed by his new environment and adopting a "soccer is soccer" approach.

With Ousted moving on to D.C. United and Brian Rowe coming to Vancouver from the LA Galaxy, Marinovic now finds the roles reversed. He's the starter who someone wants to knock off his perch, and it's another battle he's looking forward to.

"I love a challenge," Marinovic said. "It keeps me on my toes. This is preseason and the preseason is the battle for the No. 1 starting spot, so I also see it like that. Brian's a good goalkeeper, so it should be fun. I thrive off a challenge."

Marinovic will also likely have to contend with a new system this season. Although there haven't been too many signs of it in their preseason matches so far, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has said he is actively considering a formation change to play three at the back.

It's a system that can put a lot of pressure on a goalkeeper, but it's one Marinovic is very confident with, having playing it for years with New Zealand.

"I've a lot of experience with a three at the back," Marinovic noted. "That's what the national team plays and what the new coach at Colorado, [former Kiwis boss Anthony] Hudson, prefers. We always started with three at the back. I know how it functions. He was pretty adamant about drilling that into us when we were in camp.

"If you've got three, big confident center backs for three at the back, you can deal with anything coming down the middle. Then it's going to have to come down the outsides, so it gives you those options forward."

Speaking of Hudson, does having his former national team coach at a conference rival mean that Colorado will know all of Marinovic's weaknesses when the Western Conference teams meet this season?

"I don't like to see myself having many weaknesses," Marinovic laughed. "No. He won't know much."