Phoenix want more from Rodriguez

26 November 2014 06:15:46 EST

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has challenged youngster Alex Rodriguez to match the strides made by fellow off-season recruit Roly Bonevacia.

Rodriguez, who captained Sunderland's under-21 team last season, was left out of the starting side for the first time since his arrival when the Phoenix lost 2-1 to Perth Glory at nib Stadium last Friday.

He was an unused substitute in Merrick's team, who are 20/1 to win the Grand Final, while Bonevacia remained an ever-present in the side.

The Phoenix coach now wants Spanish midfielder Rodriguez to show the same kind of attacking intent he's seen from Bonevacia, who arrived from Roda JC.

Merrick said of Rodriguez: "We forget that he's 21 years old and he's still growing and learning. We've got standards to keep regarding everyone knowing the expectation, the number of passes involved, success in passes and we'll keep those standards up."

While he has completed a healthy 82.6 per cent of his passes so far this season, Rodriguez has not scored and has just one assist.

Merrick said the midfielder was growing well with the team and learning their strategy. But he added: "I'd like to see him get forward more, as we've done with Roly.

"Roly's gone from being a defensive midfielder to an attacking midfielder, has scored a goal already and is setting up goals. So I want to see Alex on the same learning curve."

Sunday's home clash with Melbourne City is not just a chance for the Phoenix to rebound after two straight away defeats but also to keep in touch with the top four.

Wellington are fifth in the table but six points behind Sydney FC, who are immediately above them. The teams finishing third and fourth in the final table will get home advantage in the first week of the Finals Series.

Wellington are 6/5 to beat Melbourne City, with a draw 12/5 and a City victory 23/10.

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