One of the intriguing sub-plots of Matchday 23's Battle of the Borussias has a star-and-striped theme to it, with Giovanni Reyna and Joe Scally set to go head-to-head for the first time on Sunday.
The recent fortunes of the two USA internationals have been as contrasting as those of their respective clubs. The stars could align, though, this Sunday at Signal Iduna Park with Reyna fit again after an injury-plagued campaign to meet his compatriot - if he is selected.
Scally's season has been an almost exact opposite of Reyna's. The 19-year-old started every game until the Matchday 18 clash with Bayern Munich, which he missed due to illness. Luca Netz and Stefan Lainer took their opportunity to impress in that game, with Gladbach beating the record champions 2-1. That left coach Adi Hütter little choice but to stick with a team that caused one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Scally has since only made three substitute appearances, while the Foals have lost their way a little without him, losing two on the spin and drawing with Arminia Bielefeld up to the narrow 3-2 win over Augsburg on Matchday 22. High time for Scally to return, then, with the seal of approval of Augsburg's USMNT rookie Ricardo Pepi, who shared a field with the versatile full-back last week.
"He's a great player - a great defender - so I feel he's developing as well as I am in the team," Pepi told bundesliga.com. "Hopefully in the future we can star for our team and we can make a big impact."
Watch: Pepi praises Scally
Pepi is not the only person to have been impressed with Scally this season. "For me, he's our player of the season," said the club's former sporting director Max Eberl after the first seven games of the campaign.
That included a debut that dreams are made of, defending against Robert Lewandowski on the opening night of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season and largely keeping the prolific Pole quiet. "I'm still on cloud nine," Scally told bundesliga.com after that 1-1 draw in which Hütter singled his defender out for special praise. "You dream of this as a kid," Scally continued.
Reyna can certainly relate, having had a similar impact on his Bundesliga debut. He was part of a remarkable comeback win against Augsburg in January 2020, just two months past his 17th birthday. Erling Haaland inspired that victory with a hat-trick and while the Norwegian naturally stole the headlines, his fellow debutant drew praise from then coach Lucien Favre.
"In training you can see that he has something special," Favre said at the time. "If you can't see that, you're blind. His movement's correct, he plays in the right way and he can already do a lot at his age."
Since that night, Reyna has racked up 51 Bundesliga appearances and made a total of 70 outings in a Black and Yellow shirt, although his phenomenal progress was checked by a hamstring injury in September. Up to then, he had started Dortmund's first three games of the season and steered in two goals.
There was hope Reyna could even return to the starting XI for last Sunday's clash with Union, but illness set him back after he had made his comeback from injury with a half-hour cameo against Bayer Leverkusen.
The excitement is now reaching fever pitch again, though, not just with Reyna ready for his return on Sunday, but because it could coincide with Scally's return to the Gladbach team.
The USMNT teammates have never faced each other in the Bundesliga, but that is a genuine prospect this weekend in the Battle of the Borussias with an American touch.
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