Whitecaps host Timbers in search of third straight win (Jul 23, 2017)
After becoming the latest visiting team to secure a win at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, the Vancouver Whitecaps will attempt to win three consecutive games for the first time this season when they return home to face the struggling and short-handed Portland Timbers on Sunday at BC Place.
And they just might do it with Yordy Reyna starting an MLS game.
The 23-year-old Peruvian international made his long-awaited MLS debut as a substitute this month after a recovery from foot surgery.
Two games ago, he provided the match-winning goal in a thrilling 3-2 victory over New York City FC. Then last week, the Whitecaps (8-7-3) scored their only goal in a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy just six minutes after his insertion by coach Carl Robinson.
And while Robinson has said it may take some time for Reyna to reach 90-minute fitness, it has to be tempting to test those limits against the Whitecaps' rivals.
"He finds pockets of space. His awareness is unbelievable. He's got a good football brain," Robinson told mlssoccer.com after the New York City win on July 5.
"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."
Meanwhile, a combination of injuries, suspensions and international absences has Portland's roster exceptionally thin. So much so that the Timbers (7-8-6) plan to call up two or three players from their reserve team, Portland Timbers 2 of the USL, to fill out the game-day sheet.
That, combined with the embarrassment of a 4-1 midweek home loss to Real Salt Lake in which forward Fanendo Adi and winger Victor Arboleda were both ejected, could make Portland the stereotypical wounded animal.
"When our backs are against the wall and we have adversity, this group seems to rise to the challenge," Timbers coach Caleb Porter told the Oregonian. "I've seen one of two things happen in this situation. Either you get the best out of guys and the group or you get the worst.
"With a good locker room and a good team and a good culture with the way we've built it, I'm confident we're going to get the best."