Good friends, USMNT teammates and fast-rising Bundesliga stars, Gio Reyna and Joe Scally could face off for the second time when Borussia Dortmund host Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday.
It’s fair to say that Reyna and Scally go back a long way.
“I think we first played against each other when we were eight or nine in a state cup game”, recalled Reyna, before revealing that it was his team that got the better of Scally’s that day.
Scally is a native of Lake Grove, Long Island on the outskirts of New York, with Reyna raised not too far away in Bedford, NY, about 40 miles north of Manhattan. Despite growing up within a familiar vicinity, it is through football where their life paths have really aligned.
Both came through the academy at New York City FC, with the pair enjoying fine youth careers with the MLS side.
“I was already on the NYCFC U14s at the time”, said Reyna, recalling Scally’s subsequent arrival midway through the season.
Little did they know that their friendship would blossom and grow ever tighter whilst the duo were on similar paths to the top.
“When we would go for away games, we were always roommates”, Scally added. “We used to see each other every day at practice. We saw each other at least four to five times a week and most days we were pretty much always together. Solid 10 hours a week together”.
The two quickly became inseparable, with both players describing the other as their best friend.
On the pitch, though, it’s clear that the dynamic duo were destined for greatness. Amidst the trials and tribulations of academy football, their path to the professional game was never really in doubt.
“It was too easy”, remembered Reyna. “Everyone says FC Dallas and LA Galaxy, nah. We were way better than all of them. We smacked all of them playing two years up.”
The more pressing question was to be whether the youngsters would seek a homegrown contract with NYCFC or another MLS team, or to head to Europe as soon as possible and develop over there.
European interest in the pair dramatically heightened after the duo helped the United States U15s to success in the Torneo Delle Nazione in 2017, with Scally netting the equaliser and Reyna the winner in a dramatic 2-1 victory over England in the final. The competition catapulted the prodigies into the shop window, with their tournament success acting as the primary catalyst for their ascent into European football.
Reyna knew it was time to take the step up. Allured by the prospect, he followed in the footsteps of fellow American superstar Christian Pulisic, opting to join one of the continent’s greatest talent incubators, Dortmund, in 2019.
Scally’s transfer to another Bundesliga giant, Gladbach, was announced later that year. FIFA regulations meant Scally was forced to wait until his 18th birthday at the end of 2020 before he could physically arrive in Germany.
“We always talked about wanting to go to Europe at some point… it couldn’t have worked out any better to be honest”, said Reyna.
Remarkably, Reyna broke into the Dortmund first team at the age of 17. But amidst the general astonishment of a player bursting onto the scene at one of Germany's biggest clubs at such a young age, Scally wasn’t the faintest bit surprised. “I knew Gio was gonna be able to do it, it was obvious”.
Regarded as one of the hottest-ever prospects to have come out of the US, Reyna had now firmly made his presence felt on the stage he was always supposed to be performing on.
Watch: Gio Reyna - precocious highs and lows
Scally’s start to life in Germany was of an equally impressive nature. Arriving in a new country with a new language to learn and an exciting footballing career ahead of him, Scally desperately wanted to make the most of his big opportunity to shine.
Marred by injuries at the beginning, Scally had to wait for his opportunity and find his feet with the reserves. Eight months later though, Scally was lining up against Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sane on the opening night of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season at Borussia-Park, and truth be told, since that night, he hasn’t looked back.
Scally recorded 30 Bundesliga appearances during the 2021/22 season, as he cemented his place as Gladbach’s first-choice right-back, and started 25 of 34 league games in 2022/23 - including a 4-2 win over Dortmund in his only previous Bundesliga meeting with Reyna. So far this term, he's made eight starts, producing a goal and assist to boot.
Watch: The Scally family were watching when Joe scored against Mainz earlier this season
Reyna's progress has been checked by various injury setbacks, though he has featured in four of Dortmund's last five Bundesliga assignments. He's also fresh off another impressive shift in the No.10 role for the US, scoring in a CONCACAF Nations League quarter-final first leg win over Trinidad and Tobago. Scally was an unused substitute in that game, but is now a regular on the USMNT circuit.
If the Stars [and Stripes] align again, friends and compatriots will be reunited on Bundesliga Matchday 12 when Dortmund entertain Gladbach. For Reyna, it will mark his 114th outing for the BVB seniors, and 84th in the Bundesliga. For Scally, his 70th at Germany's top table. Follow how things shake out on bundesliga.com!
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