SA Q&A with Claudio Reyna: 'The fans are the essence of the club'

SOCCER AMERICA: How has the season been overall?

CLAUDIO REYNA: It's been a great season. Obviously, the team's done so well in Scotland. We're approaching the records for most goals and most wins in a season and a lot of people here have said this is the best Rangers team ever. So to be a part of that is something special.

SA: What was it like playing right back?

CR: I start off at right back, but Coach [Dick] Advocaat basically wants me to push forward so I end up playing more as a right midfielder than a right fullback.

We had a lot of injuries to our defenders and [Advocaat] said, 'You know how to play the game, so you can play in any position,' and he wasn't really comfortable with any of the other options.

The way we play at Rangers anyway, the right and left backs are very attack-minded so you get forward just as much as you would out of midfield, but you have to remember your priority is defending. It was nice, a new experience for me.

SA: How many games did you play there?

CR: It was probably about eight games or so.

SA: With Rangers being so dominant in the Scottish League, is it ever hard to find motivation?

CR: Not at all. If anyone were to come and watch one of our games, they would see the supporters we have everywhere that expect us to win all the time.

A lot of the games we've won haven't been easy games. ... We have pressure every game to win, our fans expect it.

Also now, with the cup final coming up now, a lot of players are playing for places. We have a really big squad and everyone wants to be a part of that, but only 14 players get named to the squad, as a rule, for the Scottish Cup. So that's motivation.

'A big, big game'

SA: What about the possibility of winning the double? It has to be an exciting time.

CR: It's very exciting. It will be my first cup final and it's a big, big game. It's played at Hampden, the national stadium, which has just been renovated and it's beautiful.

Like any cup final, you throw out the records because it's played at a different pace. We play Aberdeen, which finished last, but that doesn't mean anything because they are going to be extremely up for it and this is going to be their only chance to win a trophy this year. We know it's going to be different than a league game.

SA: What else can you say about Scotland and your experience as compared to Germany?

CR: The life is great. My family is settled and from the first day we arrived here, we've really enjoyed ourselves.

The Scottish people are extremely friendly and the soccer side of it has been incredible. The size of the club is something I didn't realize until I got there. Just what it means to so many people. Every time I play at Ibrox is just incredible, the fans are amazing.

SA: Any examples of the club's impact on people that stand out?

CR: When you see people crying or on the verge of tears when we beat Celtic or clinch the championship, it's something you don't realize while you're on the field as a player.

I think the fans are the essence of the club. They'll always be there. Players come and go but the fans stay there forever and they've been fans since they were little kids.

We have 80-year-olds who come and have been absolute diehards for the club their whole life. ... Another thing is when we go away to Europe, we have thousands of fans following us. Wherever we go, we'll have fans.

SA: How long do you have left on your contract?

CR: Three years.

'Everything right now is so good'

SA: Any thought to a move to another, perhaps higher profile league?

CR: At the moment I'm very happy here. The club is fantastic with the way it's organized and we have great friends here. That means a lot more than playing at clubs where you might be in a great league, but not in a city you like and things like that. Everything right now is so good that I don't want to change.

SA: How has the Scottish League influenced your game?

CR: I think it's a faster game. Coach Advocaat has taught me a lot about the game and playing midfield. He's always teaching and coaching. He's always on us about our passing.

The right pass has to always be made into the right space, to the right foot and at first it might sound a bit picky, on the smallest little things, but you see we've become a really good passing team because of that. We have the ability to break any team down.

SA: Bruce Arena says he wants to free you up more with the national team so you can set up goals. Your thoughts on that?

CR: I've played mostly with Chris Armas in midfield and we've gotten a really good understanding of each other. I just need to assert myself a bit more.

For different reasons, when we've been attack-oriented I've felt I had to sit back more in the midfield at times. Once qualifiers start it's important that I try to be the link between the midfield and forwards, get in the box and get more dangerous.

SA: Are you and the other 1998 veterans out to show something in qualifying?

CR: In just a matter of about two months we'll be playing our first World Cup game and that has to be the attitude for everyone. We've got to get back there and show that we're better. It's not going to be easy ... but I think we have a good mix of players that can take us to the World Cup.

by Soccer America associate editor Will Kuhns

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