If the recent optimism and hints of certainty coming from the national team coach and general manager weren’t enough to settle any remaining nerves, then perhaps an on-the-record declaration from the man (or boy, for another eight months) himself will do the trick.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna, the 17-year-old son of two former American internationals and product of the New York City FC academy, will represent the USA at the senior level. Definitely. Case closed. He said so in Thursday’s Ruhr Nachrichten, a Dortmund daily.
"I'm aware of the rumors, but it's quite clear for me. I only want to play for the United States. That's my home country," Reyna said, according to published translations.
Those “rumors” were generated by external speculation. He was born in England while his father, former USA captain Claudio Reyna, was playing for Sunderland. Gio Reyna counts as an EU player on BVB’s roster thanks to his Portuguese passport, which he acquired through his mother Danielle Egan Reyna’s family. And via his father’s side, Gio has ties to Argentina.
That’s four theoretical national team choices, people noticed. But for Reyna, there was only going to be one destination. He spent most of his childhood in the USA, wore the colors at last year’s U-17 World Cup, and has deep connections to the program. The Ruhr Nachrichten on Thursday called Reyna’s words “Aufregende Neuigkeiten”—“Exciting News.” There’s some rare German imprecision. It would’ve been a shock if Reyna, whose stock has risen quickly at Dortmund, ever considered a switch.
Last month, new men’s national team GM Brian McBride spoke to SI.com before leaving on a trip to visit U.S. players and clubs in England, Netherlands and Germany. Reyna was not on his itinerary. Read into that what you will. A confident McBride did say, “Gio has been a great representative of our youth national teams. His father was one of the best players to have ever played for the national team. Those are factors. … We think extremely highly of him and I think you’ll see that soon.”
And so we did. Last week, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said that he intends to call Reyna in for this month’s friendlies against Netherlands (March 26) and Wales (March 30).
“We talked over the last year that we want our young players playing and performing at a high level and because of that, he gets an opportunity with the first team," Berhalter told reporters in New York City.
Berhalter said he’s been impressed with Reyna’s adaptation at Dortmund, for which he’s now played nine senior matches since mid-January and scored one goal.
"They’re using him in a way where he’s not asked to take full responsibility. He doesn’t have to carry the team. He’s playing a role and executing. What I really like is when he gets the ball in the pocket, his awareness to turn and efficiency is excellent. He doesn’t waste any touches to turn. His ball security under pressure is phenomenal," Berhalter said.
"Maybe I can make my debut," Reyna told the Ruhr Nachrichten regarding this month’s friendlies. "I definitely feel ready.”
Like some other age-eligible Americans playing for foreign teams, Reyna will not take part in the Olympic qualifying tournament kicking off March 20. Clubs aren’t required by FIFA to release players for the U-23 competition, and the Concacaf tournament in Mexico starts and ends outside this month’s international window.
Reyna told the paper that even if the USA does qualify for Tokyo, he wouldn’t be available to play in the Olympics in late July/early August.
"I could lose my spot in the [BVB] squad. I don't think that makes sense. I'm staying here. BVB have told me that they need me here," he said.