VANCOUVER—On Wednesday night, in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place, Yordy Reyna showed why he’s earned the nickname “Magic.”
The midfielder/forward scored his first ever Major League Soccer goal in the 88th minute of his home debut for the Vancouver Whitecaps — in just his second ever appearance for the team — promptly whipping off his jersey in jubilant celebration.
Reyna’s goal gave his team a 3–2 lead, which the Whitecaps would preserve to the finish for their first ever win against New York City FC. It was as sparkling a debut as the 23-year-old could have hoped for.
“I’m so pleased,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, who added that he was happy for the fans especially, who’d had a long wait to see Reyna suit up for Vancouver.
The Peruvian international was transferred from Red Bull Salzburg in January. His speed and skill on the ball were expected to provide a huge boost for the team — and to pair well with Colombian forward Fredy Montero — but Reyna suffered a foot injury in a pre-season game that had sidelined him until last Saturday, when he made his Whitecaps regular-season debut in the team’s 4–0 loss to the Chicago Fire on the road.
“He finds pockets of space,” Robinson said. “His awareness is unbelievable. He’s got a good football brain. He finds spaces, but when you find your space you’ve got to be positive in your play, and you’ve got to have an end product. Obviously today he showed his end product, not just with the goal [but with] numerous other passes and chances.”
Robinson added that Reyna’s home debut was quite the occasion. “I think he probably should have scored two goals,” he said.
Reyna entered the match as a substitute in the 65th minute and caused problems for New York from the moment he appeared on the field.
In the 83rd minute, the five-foot-seven, 145-pounder, easily spotted for his curly mop of hair, came close to scoring, sending the ball high over the goal.
In the 88th minute, Whitecaps right fullback Jake Nerwinski began a sparkling run of play, stealing the ball from New York’s Thomas McNamara and sending it back into Whitecaps territory. A series of passes ended with Cristian Techera returning the ball to Nerwinski deep in the attacking zone; he delivered a confident cross into the box for Reyna to blast into the net with a brilliant header.
“He wants to get in the box,” Robinson said. “I say to all my attacking players: ‘If you want to score goals, you have to make the effort and have the desire to get in the box. Fredy [Montero] got his reward today, and so did Yordy. So did Jordan Harvey.”
The ’Caps got off to a bright start, getting on the board in the third minute courtesy of Montero. New York City evened the score in the 34th minute, then took the lead after a controversial call.
Vancouver captain Kendall Waston, returning from injury — he’d suffered both a left hip strain and a fracture in his right hand while on international duty with Costa Rica last month — was shown a yellow in the 39th minute after his bandaged arm made contact with McNamara’s head. McNamara fell to the ground clutching his face, leading referee Baldomero Toledo to award New York a penalty, which David Villa converted.
Robinson called the decision to award a penalty “awful,” but praised his team for their resilience in rallying to a win.
The tying goal came courtesy of defender Jordan Harvey in the 54th minute of the match.
“The crowds that we have here are great,” Robinson said. “They get behind us when we’re on the front foot and when we’re doing well. And I think they sensed something was coming, which is why I introduced Yordy as well, because I think it was the momentum that carried us over today.”
Montero noted after the win how different the game’s two halves were—the second half, he added, was something the team would need to build on.
“We’re proud of what we did in the second half,” he said. “We spoke in the locker room and we said that’s the mentality that we have to have from now on.”