VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Yordy Reyna came to the Vancouver Whitecaps this offseason as another of Carl Robinson's little-known signings, but one with great pedigree and potential. What Reyna can offer this Whitecaps team was seen in abundance on Wednesday night, as Reyna headed home a powerful 87th-minute winner in a 3-2 home win over New York City FC.
A Peruvian international with an Austrian Bundesliga championship under his belt as well as UEFA Champions League and Europa League appearances, Reyna looked an exciting addition during Vancouver's preseason. A foot injury in the closing minutes of their final game saw him sidelined for four months, however.
Reyna had to wait until last week's 4-0 loss in Chicago to see his first MLS minutes as a substitute. Wednesday's match at BC Place marked his home debut, and he was electric and busy throughout his 25 minutes on the pitch.
"When we brought him in in the offseason, it was a quiet signing for us," Robinson said after watching his team's come-from-behind victory. "I knew he had great technical ability. We saw it in Portland in preseason, then he gets injured.
"The Whitecaps fans have had to wait four months and be patient to see, but what an occasion today when he comes on. He should probably have scored two goals, but it was a great header. He wants to get in the box."
Reyna brings a different dynamic to the Whitecaps. Robinson will hope the attacker will be the creative spark to help unlock his team's talents and provide some much needed support for an often isolated Fredy Montero.
With only one goal in his previous nine matches, Montero rediscovered his scoring form on Wednesday by firing the Whitecaps into a third-minute lead. New York City FC stormed back to lead at halftime, but Reyna helped change things after the break.
For Montero, having Reyna healthy is a big plus.
"[He brings] different skills," Montero told reporters after the game. "He's a small guy that can go 1-on-1 with any player, any big defender, and he can score goals. You saw that from the impressive header today that gave us three points."
It was the dream home debut for the 23-year-old Reyna, who has had to contend with a lot of adversity since making the move to Canada. Nonetheless, he is just delighted to be coming out of the other end of it all.
"Those were four very difficult months with the injury and everything," Reyna said through a translator after the match. "[It was tough] having to consult the doctors and physiotherapists, but I’m pleased with the result we were able to get today.
"The coach spoke with me and decided to give me the opportunity, so I really wanted to prove myself and play. I appreciate the coach for giving me his confidence."
Reyna is still not up to match fitness and Robinson revealed that a half-hour is about the longest the Peruvian can go in a game right now. The two week break coming up because of the CONCACAF Gold Cup should help Reyna improve his conditioning, and the hope is that he will become a key piece for the Whitecaps as they look to consolidate a playoff place.
"He finds pockets of space. His awareness is unbelievable. He's got a good football brain," Robinson said of Reyna. "He finds spaces, but when you find a space, you've got to be positive in your play and you've got to have an end product. He showed today that his end product, not just with the goal, but with his other numerous passes and chances. He's a very smart footballer."