FEATURE | One to Watch: Gio Reyna (USA)

There’s a sense of joy around Giovanni Reyna at the moment, an adjective his coach Edin Terzić also used in describing his young American charge recently.

This was at its clearest when he celebrated his precise finish that gave Borussia Dortmund a third goal against Stuttgart in mid-October. With both arms aloft at the Westfalenstadion, he glanced up at the sky, before falling into the turf, his face undoubtedly covered in relief.

Finally, he looks free from the injury problems that have hampered the last two seasons. Having played 46 games during his breakthrough 2020/21 season, he’s since played just 27 across two years. Recently he told the Washington Post that the time on the sidelines has helped him get “stronger,” with last summer giving him a chance to work on numerous aspects of his game.

While his minutes have largely been limited in managing his return, Dortmund having Reyna back as an option during the current campaign has felt like a new signing. Given that no attacking player has cemented a regular starting role for Terzić, apart from teenage sensation Youssoufa Moukoko, it has given the American the opportunity to earn more gametime.

As well as being among the first options off the bench when not starting, Reyna has made three Champions League starts, including both of Die Schwarzgelben’s group games against Manchester City. In arguably their toughest games so far, it will be of encouragement to US fans that the attacking midfielder has been entrusted for both matches.

Despite there being a small sample size of minutes from this season, it’s clear Reyna has all the tools to make himself a regular name on the teamsheet. According to FBref.com, only Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Marius Wolf and reserve forward Justin Njinmah have recorded more touches in the attacking box per 90 minutes than the US international.

His on-pitch confidence also appears to be growing back to the levels seen before his injuries. After the goal against Stuttgart, the American took responsibility and buried a penalty kick past Manuel Riemann to double his team’s lead against Bochum. The celebratory dance afterwards reaffirms how he is very much on the right track to replicating his high-flying form shown nearly two years ago.

He’s at his best when able to roam around the attacking third, linking play with a well-placed pass or layoff to find an open teammate. In tight spaces, the attacking midfielder’s ball movement is quick and tidy, making it hard for defenders to nick the ball away from him. Even recently, there were instances where he effectively used his body positioning to shield his marker away from the ball, demonstrating his strength despite his small stature.

Reyna remains a gifted player technically, with his close-range passing generally reliable. Yet he’s most threatening when running with the ball or playing a quick one-two to burst into space. Despite not being the fastest player, his ability to find gaps between the defensive lines in the half-spaces makes him hard to ignore. If he could improve his production in front of goal, he would be an even bigger threat for opponents to deal with.

Defensively, he’s more than willing to put a shift in, contributing with energy to tracking down his marker and making pressures when out of possession. While it isn’t his strongest suit, he’s able to help out his full-backs when under intense pressure out wide.

In Qatar however, it is his attacking contributions that he’ll be relied upon for the US men’s team. Still just 19-years-old, it’s extremely important to stress that Reyna is still building towards his best performances. “I’m getting there,” he said to the Washington Post. “I’m still a little bit letting things come with time. It will come. I’m pretty close to being where I want to be.”

Yet in a team chocked full of attacking talents, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of Reyna playing a key creative role for the US team, an opportunity he’ll hope to extract more joy from.

Josh Sim | GGFN

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