RB Leipzig’s top-four clash with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday may take place in eastern Germany, but it could well be decided by a pair of young USA internationals, New Yorkers Tyler Adams and Gio Reyna.
The duo are becoming increasingly pivotal performers for their sides and, depending on any tactical tinkering by Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, could very literally be standing in each other’s way on the Red Bull Arena pitch.
“I’m excited to play against him and hopefully beat Dortmund,” Adams told bundesliga.com recently of the upcoming encounter. “We both grew up in New York so we’ve known each other from when we were a little bit younger.”
The Leipzig midfielder spent much of his first year at the club struggling with injuries, but now that he is fit and healthy once more, the 21-year-old is very much a part of Nagelsmann’s side.
Adams has featured in 11 of his side’s Bundesliga assignments this season, starting eight. Although his preferred role is in defensive midfield, he has also been fielded at centre-back, on the right wing and, as was the case in the 1-0 win over Stuttgart last week, at right-back.
A repeat of that this weekend would bring him in direct contact with Reyna, who has made the left-sided attacking midfield position his own at Dortmund in what has been a breakthrough campaign so far, including three Bundesliga goals and four assists.
“It’s unbelievable, his age says it all,” Adams said of his compatriot, three years his junior. “For him to be breaking into such a strong team, such a strong attacking team, it’s kudos to him. He’s doing an unbelievable job right now and has a great head on his shoulders."
The prospect of the two East-Coasters locking horns is an appealing one, especially as Reyna’s skill and guile would be tested against Adams’ fierce determination and will to win.
“[My teammates] sometimes call me ‘the machine’. I think that I bring my athletic qualities to the team.”
Watch: Adams praises Reyna
There is no doubting that. Despite standing at a relatively modest 5’8”, Adams covers more ground on average (7.35 miles) per 90 minutes than any other regular starter in Nagelsmann’s side, while Dayot Upamecano (21.99 mph) is the only first-team regular faster in a footrace than the Leipzig No.14 (21.31 mph).
Not only that, but his all-round composure and game intelligence also make him a fearsome opponent, according to US men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter: “Tyler Adams for a young player has a lot of maturity and plays like an older player. He can guide the team, lead the team in a very good way, lead by example.”
It was in the November 2020 international break that Adams and Reyna played alongside each other for the first time, with both starting the USA’s friendlies against Wales and Panama. “I know Gio from the national team as well. We keep in touch and text all the time,” Adams said.
Berhalter is likewise a big fan of the Dortmund teenager. “Gio’s a real catalyst for Dortmund’s attack,” he told bundesliga.com. “He’s shown this year the ability to give assists and score goals.”
Watch: Berhalter's Bundesliga Boys
Indeed, only attacking prodigy Erling Haaland has been directly involved in more of Dortmund’s goals this season (10 scored, two assists) than Reyna, who, incidentally, made his first Bundesliga start in this exact fixture on 20 June last term, even chipping in with his first assist as a Haaland brace gave BVB a 2-0 triumph.
“I called him the American Dream before and it’s true,” Haaland enthused of his teammate after that game. “He’s 17-years-old and what he did on the pitch today was amazing. He has a huge future in front of him.”
Reyna has unquestionably confirmed that prognosis this term. If the fact he has outperformed more senior colleagues like Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt is not enough, his goals most certainly are.
His first of the season was a stunning example of skill, movement and vision, squeezing in his maiden Bundesliga goal in a 3-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach. His second, on Matchday 10, was a rasping shot from the edge of the box past Germany international Kevin Trapp, while his third has to be seen to be believed: collecting a diagonal ball over his shoulder on Matchday 11, he cushioned the pass perfectly before lofting it over Stuttgart goalkeeper Gregor Kobel.
All of which has fans all over the world – and particularly in New York – on the edge of their seats ahead of this weekend’s primetime blockbuster that, even at this early stage, could prove decisive in the 2020/21 title race.