VANCOUVER — Yordy Reyna has been called up by Peru for a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers, ruling him out of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ game against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Head coach Carl Robinson confirmed after Tuesday’s training session that the talismanic midfielder will join his national team as an injury replacement ahead of Thursday’s match versus Argentina in Buenos Aires and Peru’s home date with Colombia on Oct. 10 in Lima.
"The rumblings are true," said Robinson. "I’m delighted for him, but disappointed because I don’t get to use him.
"It’s a credit to Yordy, credit to the group that he’s played with that he’s managed to put himself in a window where the national team comes calling."
Reyna joined the Whitecaps over the winter from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, but broke his foot in pre-season and didn’t make his debut until July 1.
The 24-year-old has five goals — all game winners — in his 16 appearances, including nine starts, and is one of the major reasons the Whitecaps find themselves atop Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings with three games to go on their schedule.
"We found a talented young player," said Robinson. "He’s got something to prove. He’s been to Europe. It worked out and then it hasn’t worked out. He wants to enjoy his football.
"I’d been chasing him a year or so, and I managed to get him."
Peru sits fourth in South American qualifying with 24 points with two games to go. Argentina has the same amount of points, but trails in the tiebreaker. Brazil leads with 37 points, followed Uruguay (27 points) and Colombia (26 points).
The top four teams in CONEMBOL will book a ticket for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the region’s fifth-place team has to go into a playoff against New Zealand.
Reyna has two goals in 15 appearances for Peru, but hasn’t suited up for the national team since November 2015.
A skillful and tenacious player on and off the ball, Reyna has formed a good partnership with Whitecaps striker Fredy Montero, who has 13 goals in 2017 to tie his career-high in MLS.
"You see now (Reyna’s) fully fit what he can do," said Robinson. "He’s so enjoyable to watch. He creates, he scores, he works hard. He’s a little rascal, that’s what he is. But he’s some player.
"There’s talk of him arguably being the best player the club’s had. If he keeps going the way he is I won’t disagree."
A former midfielder during his playing days in England, Robinson also conceded he would have hated lining against the five-foot-seven, 145-pound Reyna.
"I would have kicked the (crap) out of him," the Welshman joked. "(But) I probably wouldn’t have got near him. That’s the funniest thing."
While happy for his player, Reyna’s call-up provides another headache for Robinson, who is already missing midfielder Christian Bolanos (Costa Rica), defender Kendall Waston (Costa Rica) and goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic (New Zealand) to international duty this weekend.
The good news for Vancouver is Cristian Techera will meet his Whitecaps teammates in Harrison, N.J., for the game against the Red Bulls after returning to Uruguay last week for the birth of his third child. But fellow midfielder Andrew Jacobson’s availability remains up in the air with his wife expecting their second child any day.
Robinson also confirmed the club will appeal Christian Bolanos’ red card in the dying stages of last Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Sporting Kansas City. If upheld, the suspension would rule the player out until the final game of the regular season.