Gio Reyna has his eyes set on more first-team opportunities at Borussia Dortmund in 2020/21. - © imago images
Gio Reyna has his eyes set on more first-team opportunities at Borussia Dortmund in 2020/21. - © imago images
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Gio Reyna: "A lot will change this season, I want to make a really big jump"

Borussia Dortmund's latest American prodigy may have made a rapid rise to the first team in most people's eyes but for Gio Reyna himself, it's been a slow and steady process. The 17-year-old says that will change this coming season though.

The USA youth international is preparing for his first full campaign in Dortmund's senior squad having made his Bundesliga debut for the club in January, midway through the 2019/20 season in which BVB finished second behind Bayern Munich.

Fifteen Bundesliga appearances, two off the bench in the UEFA Champions League and one scoring performance in the DFB Cup later, and Reyna is a fully-fledged member of Dortmund's first-team squad. And this is just the beginning.

"Now, I'm ready," Reyna told Sports Illustrated. "Even towards the end of the year, I wasn't fully like out of my shell. But this season, coming back, I think a lot will change. Against Leipzig, I think you can see a little bit of it - that I was ready to play. I think now this season, I want to make a really big jump."

For those watching from the outside, Reyna's rise from MLS youth product to Dortmund first-teamer in the space of nine months was already a giant leap. But Reyna had been working towards it and was expecting an even quicker transition.

The English-born attacking midfielder joined Dortmund in July 2019, and after embarking on the club's U.S. tour, he moved to Germany and joined BVB's U19s - following in the path of Christian Pulisic, who arrived in Dortmund in early 2015 and started with the U17s. However, it took former Schwarzgelben star Pulisic 11 months to make his debut, while Reyna wasn't keen on waiting around that long.

Watch: Gio Reyna living the dream

"For me, when I first came [to Dortmund] last season, it was more just about, 'How can I get to the first team as quick as possible?' Because that was the main goal," Reyna explained. "It wasn't play for the U-19s - no knock on those kids. But I didn't want to play there.

"I just think it's your expectations for yourself. I knew I was going to be able to do it soon," Reyna added. "That comes from within me. I knew I was better than the kids on the U19s. I knew I could make the next step soon. But it's just a matter of time."

And it's not just Reyna who believes in his abilities to that extent. Otto Addo – Dortmund's assistant coach – works closely with the young players in the first-team squad, including Reyna, and has seen why Reyna's beliefs are far from outlandish.

"You're going all the way up, Gio" - Erling Haaland (r.) and other Borussia Dortmund teammates know just how good Gio Reyna (l.) is. - imago images

"Some players, they need months to develop, to get further, to get to the next step," Addo said. "With him, if you talk with him about something, maybe it would happen the next week, but by the second week it won't happen again. He's taking weeks where others are taking a year to understand things - not only to understand, but also to transfer it onto the pitch. His soccer intelligence is far ahead."

As much as Reyna has grown in his year with Dortmund, there are still plenty of reminders for the American that he's still at the beginning of his career. The former NYCFC youngster does not turn 18 until November which will allow him to sign a professional contract with BVB as well as get a German driver's license, something he recently told Dortmund's YouTube channel that he is "currently working on".

If his football progression is anything to go by, not only will Dortmund fans be seeing their new favourite young American taking a spin through the city streets before the end of the year, he could also be driving another title tilt by playing week-in, week-out for their beloved team.