VANCOUVER, BC – Every team has their difference maker, the talismanic player who makes the team tick whenever he's on the pitch and contributes heavily to their success.
Toronto FC have Sebastian Giovinco. Portland have Diego Valeri. The thinking goes that Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been missing such a player these past few seasons. Pedro Morales certainly provided that spark in his Newcomer of the Year season in 2014, but as injuries took their toll, so did the Chilean's influence on the team.
After a couple of seasons of searching, it looks like Vancouver may have finally found that player in Peruvian attacker Yordy Reyna.
A preseason injury sidelined the 24-year-old but his much-anticipated return in July has coincided with Vancouver’s run to the top of the Western Conference standings.
“Yordy is a guy who likes to go 1-v-1,” Whitecaps FC captain Kendall Waston told MLSsoccer.com. “He likes to try to do some skills and it's part of his game. When he's in the opposite area, he can do whatever he wants. He tries to do the best for the team, obviously, but he brings different things, different qualities to the team.”
Fluent in Spanish and German, after his time with Austrian Bundesliga side RB Salzburg, Reyna often seems smaller than his 5-foot-7 size on the pitch, but what he may lack in stature he delivers in his contributions, with four goals on the season, all of them match winners.
“Quality,” was the word defender Tim Parker uses for what Reyna has brought to the team.
“Yordy brings that quality in the attacking half of the field that we really needed and we perhaps haven't had in the last couple of years, where he's busy, he's creative, and he's relentless really. Whether he goes the whole 90 or 65 or whatever he has to go, he's giving it all.”
Reyna may have been something of an unknown quantity when he came to MLS, but there's no doubt now that opposition defenses are starting to take notice. His tally of 27 fouls suffered from his 12 appearances, only six of them starts, testifies to the attention he's getting.
As a defender himself, Jake Nerwinski can likely understand why, but he feels Reyna just makes everyone around him better.
“He's such an exciting player to play with,” Nerwinski said. “He's explosive, he's quick, he's skillful, and he makes things happen. It kind of makes it easier for us all to play too because we know that we can trust him when he gets the ball and he can make stuff happen.”
Nicknamed "Spongebob" by Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson because of his hairstyle, Reyna's recent form in MLS has also put him on the radar for another call up to the Peruvian national team for the last two World Cup qualifiers, one of them a crucial clash in Argentina.
His international appearances have been fairly limited so far, as he's made 17 appearances, scoring twice, but Robinson knows his player has what it takes to succeed both in MLS and on the world stage.
“He scores goals, which helps,” Robinson stated. “If you’re going to be an attacking player, you need to either score or create. He does things which he shouldn’t do, in wrong areas of the field, but he does exciting things in the top third of the pitch.”