Techera celebratioin - closeup
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Cristian Techera: a central component of a unified 'Caps squad

In the 40th minute of a scoreless and cagey first-half affair against Western Conference leaders, Sporting Kansas City, BC Place spectators look on as a cross into the attacking box whizzes through the air and connects with Costa Rican international Christian Bolaños.

Without missing a beat, Bolaños instinctively chests the ball down, cushioning the ball’s forward momentum and bringing it down to just the right height, placing it directly in the strike path of his Uruguayan namesake, Cristian “The Bug” Techera.

And just like his teammate before him, one touch is all he needs. Pivoting on his weaker foot, Techera connects with the ball, laces first, in a textbook low-driven and masterful left-footed volley that nestles neatly into the bottom corner of the net.

Fast-forward nearly a month later and The Bug does it again.

The ‘Caps were trailing 1-0 to FC Dallas this Saturday before the Uruguayan stepped up for a remarkable 74th minute free-kick beauty that brought spectators to their feet and tied up the game to salvage a point for the ‘Caps.

And it is precisely that technical ability and lethal finish that has moulded Techera into one of the recurring figures in Carl Robinson’s preferred 4-1-4-1 starting formation this season and into one of Vancouver’s indispensable offensive weapons.

‘Caps fans will remember how they were first treated to the Uruguayan’s offensive prowess back in May 2015, when he poached his first goal with the club against Real Salt Lake in a goal-mouth scramble.

The Bug exploited an error in communication between veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando and his centre back to slot home the game-winning goal. Through an interpreter in a post-match interview, Techera later admitted that he had read the play from the RSL defender and decided to press the keeper in case the two got their signals crossed.

Techera first arrived with the club as a 22-year-old player on loan from C.A. River Plate Montevideo, where he spent five years plying his trade from 2010-2015 in the top tier of Uruguayan soccer.

With an impressive tally of seven goals and five assists in 22 regular-season games in his first MLS season, the ‘Caps decided to make the move permanent and proceeded to engage the young midfielder’s transfer option in 2016.

And while Techera admitted that adapting to a new country, a new language, a new culture and a new lifestyle was initially difficult for him and his family, now with two years under his belt as a regular first-team player in Vancouver, the Paysandú native feels confident in his ability and in the ‘Caps potential for success this season.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Techera said through a translator. “This team is united and we’re figuring out our own way of playing this season that might have been missing last year. We’re united and that’s what’s important.”

Techera also attributes this year’s success to solid player management which has allowed the team to build upon a returning cast of players year in and year out.

With one of the great criticisms of modern professional sports being the difficulty in retaining a core and relatively unchanged roster season after season, Vancouver has managed to steer clear of that for the most part. In 2015, their roster counted 14 players who are still with the club today.

As a byproduct of this squad stability, the ‘Caps have been able to build a very tight-knit Latin American connection among their ranks that took in Techera during his arrival at the club and it’s one that has continued to aid him, both on and off the pitch. Among this group of players are Costa Ricans Kendall Waston and Christian Bolaños, Argentinians Matías Laba and Mauro Rosales as well as Techera’s fellow countryman and midfield partner, Nicolás Mezquida.  

According to Laba, whom Techera rooms with on away matches, players like Rosales, Bolaños and Waston often assume the role of interpreter for their teammate to ensure that communication on tactics and strategies on the pitch proceeds smoothly without compromising the flow of the team’s rhythm and play.

“In my first year, I admit that I struggled quite a bit with the language barrier as I understood very little,” said Techera.

But thanks to his teammates’ help and the fluid channels of communication that Carl Robinson has managed to instill in his squad, Techera says he understands much more now than he did in the early days of his Vancouver career and linking up on the pitch poses few obstacles.

With the 5-foot-2 winger putting in more consistent and impressive displays this season against teams like LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact, Sporting Kansas City, and most recently FC Dallas, Techera has already surpassed his 2016 MLS goal record and currently sits as the second leading goal-scorer on the team, only behind Designated Player Fredy Montero.

And The Bug’s outlook on his own performance on the pitch is a simple one.

“One goal gives you the confidence for another and makes you a bit more comfortable and that’s good too because it also instills confidence in the coach and in teammates,” Techera said following Saturday’s match vs. Dallas.   

The ‘Caps are now poised to enter the peak of the MLS summer season with a two-game road-trip up next against expansion side Minnesota United FC followed by a match against Bastian Schweinsteiger and his Chicago Fire before returning to BC Place on July 5 to host New York City FC at 7 p.m. PT.

What does The Bug have in store next?