VANCOUVER, BC – This week marks the one-year anniversary since goalkeeper Stefan Marinović made his Vancouver Whitecaps FC debut against New England Revolution.
The New Zealand international has gone on to make a total of 24 appearances in all competitions since signing in 2017. Marinović impressed the coaching staff and Carl Robinson informed him days before the New England match that he would be starting.
He was a little surprised to get the nod so early in his tenure, but he took the opportunity in-stride when it was presented and solidified himself as the team’s number one.
“I just put my head down and did my business and I got rewarded with a starting spot,” Marinović said. “You have to expect to play being number two and I’ve been number two before. I have been on both ends of the equation so I know how quickly it can change and I know how I should act in both positions.”
Marinović had no problems adjusting to life in Vancouver.
Coming from Germany, he’s used to being a part of a team that’s essentially like a family and he noted the ‘Caps culture is the same in that regard. Having teammates who you have strong relationships with really helps a new player settle into a new environment and he stated that was an important factor in his quick adjustment.
“If you have players around you that you like and are prepared to run through a brick wall for, you tend to play better,” Marinović said. “I get along with my backline really really well, so we always talk with each other and improve. No one is left out and that improves everyone’s game including my own. To also have the number one one your back and play week in and week out helps make you feel more comfortable too.”
Marinović went on to start all three games in the MLS Cup Playoffs last year. He registered consecutive clean sheets in the knockout round and in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal against Seattle, before the ‘Caps fell 2-0 in the second leg.
“There is always heartbreak in life and you always learn from it,” he added. “I felt like we learned from last year and coming into this season, we put a bit of pressure on ourselves to make sure that it doesn’t happen again like it did last season. We are still fighting and a little bit below the line for playoffs and it’s extremely important that we concentrate on every single game, one game at a time until we are above the playoff line.”
Marinović’s second season in a ‘Caps shirt saw him go through a personal battle following his injury in May. The 26-year-old has been injured before – his longest injury was three months long and it happened right after establishing himself as a starting keeper at his domestic club and just days after making his debut with New Zealand. However, he said this season’s injury was the most frustrating one to deal with in his seasoned career.
“I worked so hard to get where I am right now,” Marinović said. “I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half before, I’ve been on the bench at very low levels when I should’ve been playing. So to finally get an opportunity to play in a top league in the world, to then be given the number one jersey and to feel responsible for everything happening on the pitch and then to get injured was very tough. I feel like I couldn’t help the team, it was out of my control, but you still feel it and that’s the worst feeling.”
The Kiwi is used to the constant battle of being a professional athlete, he is used to dealing with adversity and he feels like the team, including himself, sometimes perform better when they are against the ropes. After facing adversity in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final this week, Marinović is confident that he and his teammates can bounce back against the odds to not only add silverware, but also secure a spot in the playoffs.
“Against Toronto, we went down to 10 men, we battled against it, conceded late and everyone is probably writing us off, but that’s when we are at our best as a team,” Marinović said. “We also want to make the playoffs and from what I’ve heard, everyone rights off the ‘Caps for playoffs and we always end up squeaking through, so I don’t know why this year can’t be any different.”