Borussia Dortmund’s so-called “braintrust” thought that the best way to begin their Champions League campaign on Tuesday was with future Ballon d’Or winner and hotshot American teen Gio Reyna on the bench. As karma for this clearly erroneous decision, Dortmund found themselves in an early 2–0 hole to the lamentable Lazio. Learning from his mistake, BVB boss Lucien Favre plugged future Ballon d’Or winner and hotshot American teen Gio Reyna in for the second half, and the 17-year-old creative midfielder rewarded his coach with a sweet little assist.
During the play, Reyna, Erling Haaland, and three Lazio guys are all running in the same direction at about the same pace, and Reyna takes just a second to see what’s what before hitting a perfectly weighted curled pass through the defense and straight to his Norwegian pal’s foot. It looks like a simple finish, but only because Reyna put the ball on a dime. Dortmund lost, but I am not a Dortmund fan, I am a USMNT fan, so as long as Reyna eats, I’m happy.
Tuesday’s was Reyna’s second Champions League assist. The first came in last season’s Round of 16 tie against PSG. That one also went to Haaland, and it won the Germans’ team the game.
Reyna was just a bit player then, but he’s already cemented himself as an every-match player for the Black and Yellows this season with starts in all four of Dortmund’s Bundesliga games. This trajectory should be familiar to USMNT fans who followed Christian Pulisic’s rise through the Dortmund ranks. While Reyna hasn’t yet demonstrated the same scoring prowess as the young Pulisic, Reyna has proven even more adept at creating chances for others, primarily through his connection with Haaland. Reyna notched three assists in Dortmund’s 4–0 win over Freiburg two weeks ago, with two going to the big Norwegian. Haaland is one of the world’s most prolific strikers at the moment, and Reyna has emerged as his most reliable setup man. It is unfair that someone as huge and athletic as Haaland can run into channels as efficiently he can. All he needs is service, and Reyna’s final ball is clean and precise. It’s a marvel to watch.
Reyna was part of American soccer history on Tuesday, as he was one of five USMNT players to take the field, the most on a single day in the Champions League ever. The others were Ethan Horvath, who stood in the net for Brugge’s big win over Zenit St. Petersburg; Tyler Adams, who saw some time off the bench in RB Leipzig’s win; Sergiño Dest, who played 90 clean minutes for Barcelona at both fullback spots; and Pulisic, who logged nearly a full game for Chelsea. The five most likely would have been six if Juventus’s Weston McKennie didn’t have COVID-19, and there’s always a chance we see 20-year-old defender Chris Richards, who already has a Bundesliga assist, help defend Bayern’s Champions League title soon.
This is a hell of a crop of young Americans on the biggest stage in the world, and as good as Steve Cherundolo and Sacha Kljestan were, this level of broad representation on teams with legit title aspirations is something else. We will dutifully continue to hype them all up until the USMNT wins the 2022 World Cup, and probably beyond then too.