Yordy Reigns as Whitecaps defeat Dynamo

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 23: Tally Hall
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 23: Tally Hall /

Yordy Reyna starred for the Vancouver Whitecaps as they won 2-1 against Houston Dynamo at BC Place on Saturday night.

It’s been a long time coming, but on Saturday night Carl Robinson finally managed to field the front four he must have been dreaming of at the start of the season. Christian Bolaños, Yordy Reyna, and Cristian Techera lined up behind Fredy Montero as the Vancouver Whitecaps collected all three points at home to the Houston Dynamo.

Reyna was the star of the occasion, earning a penalty for the first goal and scoring a spectacular strike from outside the box for the second. But all four had important roles to play in the win.

First half: Whitecaps dominant

The away team has never won a Vancouver-Houston match, and this one didn’t seem ready to be the exception. It took 17 minutes for the Whitecaps to break the deadlock. Reyna was fouled just inside the penalty area, and Montero tucked away the resulting penalty kick. The Whitecaps finally have their penalty conversion rate up to 50% (3 out of 6) for this season.

Reyna doubled the lead in the 32nd minute after pouncing on a defensive giveaway. From outside the Houston box, not even looking at the goal, the Peruvian curled the ball into the top corner. Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric could only shake his head in disbelief.

Second half: Digging in defensively

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The second half was much more of a nailbiter for the ‘Caps. In the sixth minute, Romell Quioto got loose in the Vancouver area and chipped David Ousted to pull the scoreline back to 2-1. The goal was the end product of a clever passing sequence, but right back Jake Nerwinski was made to look like the rookie he is by Quioto.

The Whitecaps conceded the initiative (and possession) for the rest of the second half, and were nearly made to pay. In the end, though, they did just enough to hang on for the win.

New look midfield

With their most creative midfield players finally on the field at the same time, there was a new look to the Whitecaps on Saturday. Gone (for the most part) were the long passes forward from Kendall Waston, either out to the wings or to a well-marked Montero. Instead, Andrew Jacobson and Tony Tchani took turns bringing the ball from Waston to Bolaños, Reyna, or Techera.

It was a more narrow midfield than is usually seen from the ‘Caps. Usually you would see Bolaños and Techera playing much wider and receiving the ball primarily down the wings from the fullbacks. As seen in the passing map below (credit to @11tegen11 on Twitter), Reyna, Techera, and Bolaños were centrally positioned for most of the match. Montero was also involved in a lot of the action, rather than being isolated chasing long balls all game.

Whitecaps back in the playoff places

Reyna will deservedly get the plaudits, and not just for his goal. He drew several fouls (including the penalty) and was generally a thorn in the side of the Houston defence. His quick feet and tendency to be fouled will be very useful, considering how effective the Whitecaps often are from set pieces. But Bolaños should also get some credit for essentially running the midfield.

That’s not to say everything was perfect. There were still several wayward crosses, mainly from the right, that ended up being a waste of time as Montero isn’t a target man. Also, after weeks of consistent improvement, Nerwinski took some backward steps. He’s strong going forward, beating defenders and getting in crosses, but his defensive awareness still needs work. Houston’s goal was one glaring example.

This was a match the Whitecaps needed to win, at home to Western Conference opposition. Doubly so as the Dynamo left several key players at home. The win was enough to put Vancouver back above the red line and into sixth place in the West.

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Now, the ‘Caps embark on a stretch of home games that may define their season, starting with Seattle on Wednesday. Five out of their next six matches are at home, and four of those games are also against Western Conference teams. Now would be a really good time to put together a run of wins.