Borussia Mönchengladbach's Joe Scally is settling into life in Germany and in the Bundesliga since his move from New York City FC in January, with a little help from Borussia Dortmund's Gio Reyna.
Scally, 18, arrived in Gladbach at the start of 2021 in a new country, with a new language to learn and potentially a whole footballing career ahead of him. Eight months later, the right-back was going up against Bayern Munich's Leroy Sane playing at left-back on the opening night of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season at Borussia-Park.
It may have looked like Scally came out of nowhere to many, but to himself it had been a long time coming, which is why he wanted to make sure he made the most of his big opportunity to shine.
Watch: Aiming High: Joe Scally
"For me, it feels like a long time coming because in New York I never really got the opportunity to play," Scally told a media roundtable on Thursday. "For me, it's been a long time, maybe for others it feels like it's happened really quickly, but I'm just happy that I came and I took my opportunity and that I'm finally able to show what I can do."
And take his opportunity he did. Scally was labelled a "shooting star" by local paper Rheinische Post after his performance against the defending champions, tying up Sane as Gladbach held Bayern to a 1-1 draw. Although it was only Scally's second professional game in the position after training there during pre-season, the man himself was proud of how he acquiited himself in a game he simply did not want to miss.
"You know you get the schedule; you see Bayern Munich in the first game and you're like, 'this is a game I want to play in'," Scally said. "So, the night before my family was here, they helped take my mind off the game, calm down my nerves. But when you’re out on the field, you're out there, you can't be nervous.
"You're going against [Robert] Lewandowski, [Leroy] Sane, all these guys that you watch so I knew I just had to leave everything out on this game and perform as well as I can, and I think I did a good job at it, so I just want to keep going."
It was a performance which showed Scally's maturity for his age, going up against some of the best players in the world at only 18 and not shying away from the spotlight. The American has also been maturing off the pitch, much to the delight of his mother visiting from across the pond.
"It [moving to Germany] has matured me a lot. I came here a kid, goofy like a normal High School American kid, and then I had to grow up fast, so I've definitely matured," Scally said. "Even my Mum said it when she came here, she said 'woah, you do your own laundry now?'. It's things like that which have helped me mature and I had to grow up quick."
Scally, of course, is just one of several Americans playing in the Bundesliga: Chris Richards and Tyler Adams, who are following in the footsteps of the likes of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, the latter duo having developed into the stars of the USMNT's new generation since starting out in the Bundesliga.
But it's Gio Reyna with whom Scally has the closest connection. The pair grew up not far from one another and played in the same youth team together back when they were 11. Now, together in the Bundesliga, the friends are pushing one another to develop on the pitch, while helping each other not feel homesick off it.
"Last Monday he [Reyna] drove out and we went to a good Chinese restaurant in Düsseldorf," Scally said. "We just got to hang out and at my apartment as well.
"He loves candy, I'm not even kidding, things like sour belts. I didn't even know this candy place was in Düsseldorf, while my family was here we walked the same street every single time and I thought I'd have known if there was a candy store. But we were riding the scooters like two little kids and he stopped and I said 'what are you doing?', and he said 'there's a candy store, we have to stop' and so he goes in, gets a whole bag of candy and he's just eating it the whole time it was funny."
Following in the same footsteps of Reyna - who recently became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 appearances - would see Scally become a key part of the US' new generation of talent, which has mainly been bred in the Bundesliga.
For Scally, himself, he has already achieved the one goal he set out for himself before the start of the season and will need to create more personal goals for the remainder of the campaign ahead.
Watch: Scally: "We want to win the league!"
"When the season was getting set to start my first goal was to play against Bayern Munich," Scally explained. "That was right away my goal and for it to happen and for me to have a good game, I mean I just need to think of new goals.
"Of course, I want to play as many games as I can but overall, we have the team goal which is to make the Champions League for next season and that is the main goal."
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