A year ago, Gio Reyna started out
his full season in Germany on Borussia Dortmund's U-19 team, playing in obscurity at the Hohenbuschei soccer park, Dortmund's youth complex located about seven miles from the city.
On Saturday, the 17-year-old American will likely start for Borussia Dortmund when it opens the 2020-21 Bundesliga season against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Saturday's game will be the first Bundesliga game at Signal Iduna Park with fans since the pandemic hit in March. Dortmund has received permission to welcome 10,000 fans.
Star Marco Reus' rehabilitation continues, opening up a starting spot in the attack for Reyna, but it is not like Dortmund coach Lucien Favre views Reyna unworthy of the opportunity.
"You can see immediately, he feels football," Favre said ahead of Saturday's opener. "His movements are good. He is dangerous on goals and can read the game well. And he can defend well and intelligently. That's good for a 17-year-old. Of course, he still has the potential to do things to improve. But he already has a lot."
Reyna, who played in 15 of 17 games in the second half of the 2019-20 season, is coming off a preseason in which he scored four goals in five matches.
“The most important thing for me is confidence, which I’ve gotten a lot of over the last six weeks in preseason,” Reyna told reporters recently. “I’m doing well. I’ve gotten closer with a lot of the guys. They’ve really accepted me now and they expect me to have a big season for them, too. I just think confidence is the biggest thing that’s improved for me."
Reyna is part of a youth corps that also includes 20-year-old Jadon Sancho, whose transfer to Manchester United has still not gone through, 20-year-old Norwegian Erling Haaland, who arrived at Dortmund in January, and fellow 17-year-old Jude Bellingham, a summer signing from Birmingham City.
The late start to the Bundesliga and Champions League seasons means that the schedule will be condensed, creating more opportunities for young players like Reyna and Bellingham.
“I’m ready for an exciting year," said Reyna. "We know it’s going to be a long year because we have lots of games. I think we’re both going to get opportunities this year for sure, so it’s just about whether we take them or not.”
Reyna scored on a deflected free kick in the season opener, a 5-0 win over Duisburg in the German Cup and expects to get chances even when Reus is back in the lineup.
“Of course, there’s competition," Reyna added, "and it’s healthy competition. It may not now be as easy [to get playing time] as when he was injured, but there are still so many positives to having him back in the team. I can still play in other positions and he can, too. It’s not only him, we have other good attackers this season, so it’s against other guys as well. I’m happier to have him back than not."
Yanks Abroad: Five games to follow ...
Saturday, Sept. 19
Werder Bremen (Josh Sargent) vs. Hertha Berlin, 9:30 am. ET (ESPN+)
Nacional vs. Boavista (Reggie Cannon), 11 am. ET
Bor. Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs. Bor. M'Gladbach, 12:30 pm. ET (ESPN+)
Sunday, Sept. 20
RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams) vs. Mainz, 9:30 am. ET (ESPN+)
Juventus (Reggie McKennie) vs. Sampdoria, 2 pm. ET (ESPN+)