All he needed was a chance to play. He got it in MLS.
Yordy Reyna joined the Vancouver Whitecaps in January in search of the steady playing time that largely eluded him in Europe. After overcoming an early season injury, he has found just that – and his top form.
Peru’s national team has taken notice.
Reyna was called into the Peruvian national team’s camp on Tuesday as a last-minute reinforcement ahead of the biggest two matches in the country’s recent history. Peru, currently ranked No. 4 in South American qualifying, are looking to hold on to one of the top four spots after their final two matches over the next week against Argentina and Colombia to clinch their first World Cup appearance since 1982. A fifth-place finish would earn them an intercontinental World Cup playoff against New Zealand.
A long time coming
The 24-year-old attacker has not been with La Blanquirroja since November 2015, but he will team up with his compatriots again in the hopes that they can qualify for their first World Cup in almost 36 years.
He will do so after playing some of the best soccer of his young career, too.
Ever since recovering from a left foot injury sustained in preseason that sidelined him for the first four months of the campaign, Reyna has impressed in Vancouver with his quick feet, technical skills and overall attacking prowess. The Peruvian’s contributions in the final third are one of the main reasons why the Whitecaps have already clinched a spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs and why they currently sit in first-place of the Western Conference.
Facing a combination of injuries and suspensions – Peru will be without at least three regular starters for Thursday’s highly-anticipated tilt at Argentina – Peru could give Reyna significant minutes in the upcoming qualifiers given the player's familiarity with head coach Ricardo Gareca.
If Reyna does see the field, Peruvians everywhere will be hoping he can finally deliver on the tremendous potential he showed at Alianza Lima at the start of his career. The diminutive attacker has always shown flashes of the quality he has demonstrated with the Whitecaps this year, but his problem has been doing it consistently, particularly on the international level.
Reyna, who made his senior Peru debut in 2013 after a strong showing at the Under-20 South American championship, has 17 career senior caps but just two goals. Both of those tallies came in friendlies played four years ago, and his lack of production and subpar performances have never really allowed him to solidify a place with Peru.
Gareca brings back Reyna
When the Argentine manager first took over Peru back in 2015, Reyna became a regular call-up, even serving as a go-to substitute in the Peruvians’ surprising run to third place in that year’s Copa America.
But he failed to build on that in his following appearances, and was even memorably removed by Gareca from a World Cup Qualifying home loss to Chile after being substituted into the game. Reyna broke down in tears on the bench when he was yanked after just 28 minutes.
Gareca didn’t give up on Reyna and he used him in another pair of matches after that. But Peru’s struggles at the start of qualifying, combined with the success the coach had with a younger and more inexperienced group at the Copa America Centenario in 2016 saw Reyna, and several others, fall out of the national team picture.
The core of the squad used in that tournament has mostly remained intact and results have picked up significantly for Peru in qualifying, leaving Gareca largely content and seldom needing to bring in other players. Still, Gareca has insisted time and again that the door is open for any player to get a call-up based on form. Reyna’s late addition to this current camp only serves to further underline that.
What role will he play?
It seems unlikely that Reyna will start in these games against Argentina and Colombia given how late his call-up has come in the qualifying process, but, at the very least, he provides another intriguing option for Gareca off the bench.
Peru prefers to keep the ball on ground and combine quickly to penetrate defenses, and Reyna can do that in both the wide and central attacking roles in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Gareca usually trots out.
Reyna has serious competition, of course, both in the short- and long-term as reserve players like Jefferson Farfan, Andy Polo and Jose Manzaneda are also eager to cement their places behind the likes of Christian Cueva, Andre Carrilo and Edison Flores.
Nonetheless, Reyna is once again back in the fold for Peru. He has not made the most of his previous opportunities, but will want to use the rhythm he has picked up in Vancouver to do so here. A spot in next summer’s World Cup, for Peru and quite possibly himself, rides on it.