The Call Up

"It’s just the beginning": Claudio Reyna shares outlook on Gio Reyna's rise at Dortmund, USMNT

Given all he accomplished during his own playing career, surely Claudio Reyna is quick to offer advice to his son, US men’s national team and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna, about navigating life as a 19-year-old rising soccer star, yes?

If only it were that easy, Austin FC’s sporting director told The Call Up co-hosts Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits live from SXSW in the Texan city his team calls home.

“I kind of laugh about it, but what could I tell him? What he’s doing, I wasn’t doing that, so I’m having to give him my input from when I think I was 25, 26, 27 – the experiences I had at that stage of my career I’m able to share with him as well,” said Claudio. “But he’s doing things at 17, 18, 19, so I have to go into myself as a 17, 18, 19-year-old and be like ‘What would I be thinking at this moment?’ And not forgetting that he’s a kid still too. At that age, I remember I didn’t want to hear too much from my parents. I think we’re all the same, so I’m very mindful of that.”

Claudio’s answer provides insight into the multiple hats he wears, with the father-son relationship superseding all else. It also makes watching Gio’s games in the German Bundesliga a unique exercise, with the National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and ex-USMNT captain keen to remember how witnessing sequences from the stands and on the field are vastly different vantage points.

“I watch his games differently than I do any other games,” Claudio said. “I watch his games a lot like Austin FC with much greater focus, because if I watch another game I’m sort of watching it, not paying attention, maybe jump on the phone. But when I watch his games, I get into this sort of real deep focus and then I’m able to, if he asks me something, I can remember that time you ran that way and he had the ball there, what were you thinking? Just to kind of get into his brain, so I ask questions: Did you see the guy there?”

Those conversations arrive via Gio’s trajectory from a New York City FC academy product to an established European star, featuring for Der BVB alongside attacking talents like Erling Haaland and Marco Reus. And at the international level, he’s already won a Concacaf Nations League title over Mexico and figures to play a key role at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, should the USMNT qualify later this month.

A hamstring injury has limited Reyna’s 2021-22 season at Dortmund, though beforehand, he’s played in the UEFA Champions League against teams like ​​Manchester City (England), Lazio (Italy) and more. His first-team debut came roughly six weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began, too, Claudio quickly notes.

“He broke through at a very young age at 17. Wild, of course, you never know these things are going to happen,” Claudio said. “When he was younger, he was very talented, he loved it, he was being scouted and recruited by teams all over the world. It was odd, you don’t expect these things to happen. From the shoe companies to the clubs to the decision on whether he stays here or goes there, it was hard for us to slow this down when everything is happening so quickly.”

As for what comes next? That’s the exciting part, said Claudio, whose own playing days included a title with Scotland’s Rangers, making him ​​the first American to win a first-division title in Europe.

“It’s just the beginning, he’s just breaking through,” Claudio said. “I’m excited about his journey and continuing to learn. He’s at a great club. Dortmund is a fantastic club.”