Gio Reyna (l.) made his senior debut for Borussia Dortmund at just 17, alongside Erling Haaland (r.), who scored a memorable hat-trick in the 5-3 win at Augsburg on Matchday 18. - © gettyimages
Gio Reyna (l.) made his senior debut for Borussia Dortmund at just 17, alongside Erling Haaland (r.), who scored a memorable hat-trick in the 5-3 win at Augsburg on Matchday 18. - © gettyimages

Why Gio Reyna is set to succeed - and possibly exceed - Christian Pulisic for Borussia Dortmund and the USA

Borussia Dortmund’s starlet Gio Reyna is treading an eerily similar path to the one carved out by fellow American Christian Pulisic and the early foretelling of his career to come should excite both fans of the Black and Yellows and the USA national team.

Reyna’s early shadowing of Pulisic’s breakout in 2015/16 is clear. They both signed for Dortmund as 16-year-old’s from American academies, each represented the USA at U17 FIFA World Cups.

When Reyna was made a permanent member of the Dortmund first team this winter, he celebrated his promotion by scoring in the 4-2 January friendly win over Feyenoord. Back in January of 2016, Pulisic had also been moved to the senior squad full-time as a 17-year-old and marked his own ascension with goals in winter friendly victories over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Union Berlin.

Pulisic was 103 days older than Reyna when he was first named in a matchday squad for Dortmund on Matchday 18 of 2015/16. The son of former USA internationals Claudio and Danielle Egan Reyna named on the bench for the first time for Dortmund’s 5-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf at the end of last year, just 24 days after turning 17.

And his Matchday 18 debut for the seniors in the stunning 5-3 win at Augsburg made Reyna the fifth-youngest player to play in the Bundesliga and youngest American to ever feature in the German top-flight, beating Pulisic's own record. It also came one week ahead of Pulisic's Matchday 19 bow in a 2-0 victory over Ingolstadt and both made those appearances as 17-year-olds just weeks after stepping into the first team fold.

This can’t be mere coincidence. Dortmund assistant coach, and former player at the Signal Iduna Park, Jorg Heinrich believes the similarities are uncanny.

“Gio is a fantastic talent,” he told Goal. “He has loads of potential along with plenty of confidence.

“I think his talent is similar to Christian Pulisic, or maybe a little bit better. But we want to keep him grounded because we’ve seen what happens to a lot of the young players.”

Even their youth records in the first half of the two contrasting seasons that they made the step-up to the senior squad read nearly identically.

Pulisic scored six and set up six more in 12 appearances for Dortmund’s U19s in the 2015/16 Hinrunde, while Reyna has four goals and seven assists from 11 games, as well as another four goals and an assist in five UEFA Youth League matches over the course of the 2019/20 equivalent.

Gio Reyna captained the USA U17s at the FIFA World Cup last year. - imago/ZUMA Press

Even in terms of style, the pair share a keen eye for goal, a stick-like-glue first touch and slaloming dribble that puts fear into opposition defenders.

Positionally, too, they both thrive across the front line of an attack. Reyna played through the middle against Standard Liege this month, scored from the right against Feyenoord and has played - like Pulisic - from the left and as a No10 for the youth teams of the USA and Dortmund.

And BVB clearly see something exceptional in Reyna, just as they did in Pulisic before him.

“[Reyna]’s a big, big talent. I think he will do a lot for American soccer in the next five or 10 years,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told The Athletic.

"Like Christian, he has time to develop. He needs time but he has everything a player should have."

Watzke is right, Reyna has plenty of time on his hands but considering the attacking midfielder’s rocketing emergence in recent months, his developing talent seems impatient.

He is now very much knocking on the door for more first team opportunities and should he manage to get them, there are Pulisic records to break.

At 17 years 212 days, Pulisic became youngest non-German to score in the Bundesliga and should Reyna manage to find the back of the net in the league between now and the end of the season, he will usurp his predecessor.

Reyna can still oust the now Chelsea forward as the youngest USMNT player to score an international goal (17 years, 211 days) if he were to be called up and then find the back of the net before June 11.

Watch: Christian Pulisic: Made in the Bundesliga

And you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Reyna being handed a USA debut in the coming months as he is clearly on coach Gregg Berhalter’s radar already.

"I think of Gio Reyna, I wish it was four years later and he was at the top of his game," Berhalter told Extratime.

"That’s exciting to me, but I also realise it’s a process, I realise it takes time and what we’re doing is gathering as much information as possible to find out if they’re absolutely ready."

He also has a full year to beat Pulisic’s record as the youngest American player to score a goal in the UEFA Champions League (18 years, 171 days) and would steal the 21-year-old’s record as the youngest USA footballer to win a major European club trophy if Reyna were to pick up either a league, Champions League or DFB Cup medal this season.

Considering that Reyna’s rise is running parallel to, and even ahead of, Pulisic’s stunning emergence four years ago, the sky really is the limit for the England-born American.