Anyone thinking that the devastating combination play between Gio Reyna and Erling Haaland against Freiburg on Matchday 3 was a one-off would be well advised to think again: the Borussia Dortmund duo have picked defences apart in the past – and are only just getting started.
While both are exceptional young footballers – Reyna is still just 17 while Haaland is a relative veteran at 20 – the pair’s off-field friendship has laid the foundation for their understanding and success on it.
Watch: Highlights of Dortmund's Reyna and Haaland-inspired win over Freiburg on Matchday 3
Haaland arrived at Dortmund in January 2020, at around the same time as Reyna was being integrated into the first team squad after outgrowing the U19s in the first half of the 2019/20 season. As newcomers, the two hit it off immediately.
“I’ve grown really close with Erling because he came to Dortmund when I made the jump to the first team in the winter and we were both getting used to the club and the players,” Reyna told ESPN in May.
That instant friendship has been strengthened by Haaland acting as Reyna’s chauffeur, driving him to and from training sessions as the American is still without a valid license in Germany.
Ten months on, and with both having earned a regular place in Lucien Favre’s team, Dortmund are starting to reap the benefits.
“We have a good chemistry,” Reyna told BVB.TV after Matchday 3. “We came into the first team at the same time and ever since he’s been drilling it into my head to ‘pass me the ball, pass me the ball, pass me the ball’.
“After a few months of getting to play together, you can see that you just have to pass him the ball and he’ll score. We have a lot of good chemistry in the team, and especially me and him play really well together, and we get on really well off the field, too. I love playing with him.”
That much has long been evident. Reyna’s first assist in senior professional football was teeing up Haaland to score in a 2-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg in February.
The USA youth international’s second assist, against RB Leipzig on Matchday 33 last season, was also for Haaland, his clever first-time flick inside the penalty area helping pave the way for a 2-0 success.
Watch: Scroll to 0:40 seconds for Reyna's sublime first Bundesliga assist for Haaland last season
Reyna scored Dortmund’s first Bundesliga goal of the season in the 3-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 1, and also won the penalty from which Haaland opened his account for the campaign.
And so the pair’s headline-grabbing display in the 4-0 win over Freiburg, in which Reyna set up both of Haaland’s goals, was simply a continuation of what they had already been doing. Of the American’s five assists as a pro, four have been for Haaland to score (the other being a corner for Emre Can).
As striking as that is, it is also worth noting how Reyna provides the assists. He knows Haaland’s game so well that each time he has teed him up it has been with the perfect weight and straight to his lethal left boot, rather than his weaker right one, decreasing the time the Norwegian needs to control it and increasing his likelihood of scoring.
“They were two nice goals from me, but Gio set me up perfectly,” said Haaland after the Freiburg win.
Indeed, so impressed is Haaland by his teammate that he has dubbed him “The American Dream” for the way he has established himself in the side. “He’s 17 years old and what he’s doing on the pitch now is amazing,” he said at the start of the season. “He has a huge future in front of him.”
Watch: Haaland: "Reyna's the American Dream!"
The appreciation is certainly mutual. "I look up to him because he's done so many things in a young career, and he's a great guy," said Reyna. "He's encouraged me, as he sees something in me."
The wider football community is seeing it now, too. And with four starts apiece from as many competitive games this term, coupled with a combined total of six goals and four assists already, the chances are good that we will all be seeing a lot more of the young Dortmund duo in the coming weeks and months.
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