The news has come down yesterday that Yordy Reyna has been called up to the Peruvian naitonal team for their World Cup qualifying matches against Argentina and Columbia. These games both have pretty big implications for the 2018 World Cup as Peru, Argentina, and Columbia currently occupy spots 3,4, and 5 of CONMEBOL qualification with Chile, Paraguay, and Ecuador all within striking distance. CONMEBOL has 4.5 qualification spots (though realistically it’s 5 spots, sorry New Zealand) so these games are monumentally important. It’s a big honour for both the club and MLS as a whole that one of our players will have the opportunity to have an impact in such important games. However, it does leave the Vancouver Whitecaps in a bit of a dilemma about how to replace such an important player. The ‘Caps are coming up on their own important match as a point against New York Red Bulls guarantees the all important home playoff game. So how should they deal with Reyna’s absence? The answer is simple: play Marco Bustos.
This may seem like a lot of trust to put in a player who hasn’t exactly seized his first team chances with both hands but bear with me here.
Mezquida Has Been Lacklustre
After being a bright spot in a poor 2016 season Mezquida has not had the most successful 2017 season. two goals, and an assist in 650 minutes is nothing to write home about. I understand that backups aren’t going to have the highest numbers but his accompanying 69% passing average and 0.6 key passes per game are also pretty disappointing for a #10. If we’re going to field a player who’s abilities are a little uncertain we might as well go with a Canadian prospect right?
Bustos Has Been Killing it with WFC2
In contrast Bustos has been excellent over the last few months with WFC2. Aaron Nielson wrote an article for rednationonline.com that’s partially in response to my article “The Bustos Paradox,” and he correctly points out that Bustos’ underlying stats are some of the best in the USL (it’s a really good article, I can’t recommend it enough). Despite only having 1 assist Bustos averages 1.5 key passes per game and his lack of production can be chalked up to some of the sub par players around him. I mean look at this:
In addition to his key passes Bustos also leads WFC2 in goals (8) and shots on target (21), Has a chance conversion rate of 20%, and a passing accuracy of 83%.
I’ve made the point in the past that if good performances with WFC2 aren’t rewarded then there’s no point in having it. Well I think this is the case here. A player who plays in Bustos’ position is unavailable and he’s been playing well in the reserves so he deserves a shot at showing what he can do in the big leagues. It’s possible he’ll play poorly but if our best WFC2 players don’t get a chance then what in god’s name are we wasting all that money on?
Bustos Plays a Similar style to Reyna.
Bustos, like Reyna, plays the number 10 role very differently from the way someone like Pedro Morales did. Where Morales was more of a distributor, Bustos and Reyna focus more on driving the ball up field with their dribbling skills. Both players can certainly distribute the ball as well but their bread and butter is running at defenders and unsettling them. I think this style of 10 fits the ‘Caps very direct style very well. To a certain extent Mezquida does this as well but I just don’t think he has the skill to really trouble a back line the way Reyna and Bustos can. The similar style also means that the team does not need to adapt as much too Reyna’s absence as Bustos offers they same type of play, if not necessarily at as high a level.
So in conclusion the best way to cover for Yordy Reyna is to give Marco Bustos a chance in the #10 role. His previous MLS appearances may not have been inspiring but his good reserve performances and similar play style to Reyna makes him a better option then the out of form Mezquida.