USA coach Gregg Berhalter says he is convinced that Borussia Dortmund starlet Gio Reyna is destined to become a top performer for club and country, and that he must be given opportunities to develop at the highest level.
The 17-year-old attacking midfielder was set to make his senior debut for the USA in March, but friendlies with the Netherlands and Wales were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
With the Stars and Stripes now likely to kick off their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in the autumn, Berhalter admitted he had been keeping close tabs on all his players, foreign and domestic – especially the latest rough diamond getting the patented Bundesliga polish at the Signal Iduna Park.
"Gio's going to grow into a fantastic player, there's no question about it," the former Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich defender insisted. "Our job is to help with that growth. Does that mean him getting an opportunity, an early opportunity, to play in difficult games? That's going to make him better, make him rise to an even higher level."
Watch: Gio Reyna, living the American Dream
In his first six months with the Dortmund first-team squad, Reyna certainly hasn't shied away from a challenge – be it literally or metaphorically. He showed a remarkably cool head when thrown into the UEFA Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, coming off the bench to set up Erling Haaland for a late first-leg winner. And when Lucien Favre handed him a maiden Bundesliga start in June, he once again teed up the big Norwegian as BVB claimed a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig, thereby assuring themselves second place in the table.
"Gio has a huge future in front of him," Haaland said after that Leipzig victory. "I called him 'The American Dream'. He's 17 years old, and what he did on the pitch today was amazing."
Having impressed for the Dortmund U19s throughout the first half of 2019/20 – he notched eight goals and as many assists in 16 outings – Reyna was promoted to the senior squad over the winter break, and it didn't take him long to make an impact. In early February, he became the youngest scorer in DFB Cup history (17 years, two months, 21 days) with a stunning strike against Werder Bremen, his first professional goal.
In total, he made 15 Bundesliga outings this term – featuring in all but two games during the Rückrunde – and looks set to play a bigger role in 2020/21, even with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt vying for spots in BVB's final third.
"Dortmund did a great job of integrating him into the group in a calculated way to help him perform at high levels," Berhalter added. "How do we challenge him? How do we put him in a difficult environment to help him grow as a player? He's one of those players who will keep rising to the challenge and we need to provide him with that."
When Gio does finally make his international bow it will be a proud day for the Reyna family, as he follows in the footsteps of both of his parents: father Claudio won over 100 caps for the USMNT and captained his country at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, while mother Danielle played six times for the USWNT.
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