Gio Reyna: The prodigious son catching Favre′s eye at Borussia Dortmund | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 06.02.2020
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Gio Reyna: The prodigious son catching Favre's eye at Borussia Dortmund

Another week, another Dortmund wonderkind. Gio Reyna, 17, became the youngest German Cup goal scorer in midweek and is the son of two former USA internationals. With Marco Reus injured, we could be seeing more of Reyna.

Until Tuesday evening, the last time an American called Reyna scored a goal in the German Cup was at the tail end of the last century, as Claudio Reyna notched for Wolfsburg against Sportfreunde Siegen. The Wolves went on to lose in the semifinals to eventual winners Werder Bremen.

Four years later, his son Giovanni was born while Claudio was playing for Sunderland in the Premier League and, 13 years after that, Gio exacted a meaure of delayed retribution with a stunning strike against Bremen in the German Cup. Unfortunately for the family, and for Borussia Dortmund, Gio's mezmerizing, slalom dribble and dipping, curling strike wasn't enough to stop BVB crashing out.

But it was enough to take a little of the spotlight away from a certain 19-year-old Norwegian, who also got on the scoresheet in the 3-2 loss. Just for a change, it wasn't Erling Haaland setting records, it was Reyna, who became the youngest player ever to score in the German Cup. That landmark came a couple of weeks after he became the fifth-youngest player in Bundesliga following a debut against Augsburg just 19 days after his 17th birthday.

Big shoes to fill

The elusive footwork, effusive confidence and fearlessness of youth, along with the stateside accent and yellow and black shirt, make Christian Pulisic an obvious point of comparison. But although the pair both used passports gained through their European heritage (in Gio's case his father's mother is from Portugal) and left America early to take their chances in the Bundesliga, Reyna's backstory is a little different to that of his compatriot.

His footballing father won 112 caps for his country, played at three World Cups and was the first American to captain a European team while his mother Danielle Egan Reyna also won a handful of caps for the USA. After his playing career ended, Claudio became sporting director of MLS team New York City FC, where Gio, named after Claudio's Rangers teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst, came through the ranks. 

"He's much more of an athlete than I was, much more of a goal scorer. He's very technical and has a good feel for the game. He has a great free kick and can strike a ball well. Danielle was a great runner, and he's a runner," Claudio said recently of his son.

Solid mentaility

In an interview with BVB's TV channel, Gio admitted that: "It’s crazy at times to think all my friends are in high school back home and I’m in Germany playing professional Fussball right now in the Bundesliga." But his composure and professionalism have impressed many at the club including Otto Addo, who won the title with Dortmund and now takes charge of the club's youth teams.

"Gio is someone who’s made a lot of progress, who’s mentally strong and who can handle pressure," Addo said. "He does things that show he plays without fear and with confidence but he’s also grounded off the pitch, which I really like."

Much like Haaland, and before that, Jadon Sancho, Reyna has so far been eased in to the first team gently by Lucien Favre. But the announcement on Wednesday afternoon that Dortmund skipper Marco Reus faces a month out injured could see the American get more of a chance than might have been expected, particularly given Favre's obvious reservations about Mario Götze.

Big ambitions

"In training you can see that he has something special. If you can’t see that, you’re blind," said Favre recently.   

Reyna (right) celebrates his goal with Erlin Haaland (imago images/Team 2)

Reyna (right) celebrates his goal with Erling Haaland

Recognizing Reyna's talent is one thing, trusting him in a key phase of the season is another. Dortmund travel to Leverkusen on Saturday and also face Borussia Mönchengladbach, derby rivals Schalke and Paris Saint-Germain twice before mid-March in a run of games that could make or break, their season.

But, speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the Dortmund coach suggested Reyna's time could be now. "Gio in the starting 11? Why not? He has so much versatility and can play in many different positions," the Swiss tactician said.

Judgements on Reyna should come more slowly than on his team. Given BVB's promotion of youth in recent years, he seems to be in one of the best places for his development. But, as befitting an attacking player who already looks composed on the biggest of stages, Reyna has set his aims for the season nice and high: "Help the team, score goals, get assissts, work hard defensively and just try to win the Bundesliga this year," he said. 

Achieving that lofty last goal is something his father never managed to achieve.

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