Giovanni Reyna is back for the US men’s national team, and the New York City FC academy product has his coach making comparisons to a legend of the game.
Gregg Berhalter, speaking after Thursday night’s 0-0 draw with Mexico in World Cup qualifying, likened the Borussia Dortmund midfielder’s solo run to one that Argentine all-time great Diego Maradona made vs. England during the 1986 FIFA World Cup – at the very same Estadio Azteca.
“Mexico was the host of the '86 World Cup where Maradona scored his wonderful goal, and I had visions of that when Gio was dribbling,” Berhalter said. “Unfortunately he didn't finish it off or get an opportunity to finish it off, but I think he made a solid impact and he showed the type of playmaking and attacking quality he has.”
The play followed the 19-year-old’s entrance in the 60th minute, his first WCQ appearance since the Yanks began this quest for one of Concacaf’s three automatic Qatar 2022 spots back in September at El Salvador.
Come the 77th minute, he gathered the ball atop the USMNT’s defensive box and nearly entered Memo Ochoa’s box after beating several El Tri defenders, including Houston Dynamo FC summertime arrival Hector Herrera on two occasions.
On his 10th cap, it was a reminder of the special qualities that Reyna has shown in the German Bundesliga.
“It felt great to be back,” Reyna said. “It was a tough game [and] I just tried to come in and make a difference. On the run, it was more instinct. I noticed a few guys were tired, so I just tried to carry the ball up the field.”
As for the Maradona comparisons? Reyna’s not so convinced there, sharing a laugh with Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic in their joint postgame media availability when made aware of Berhalter’s remark.
“I don't know about that, but it was a nice run,” Reyna said.
At the very least, the USMNT fanbase can breathe a collective sigh of relief that Reyna is healthy again after a hamstring injury kept him out long-term. And they’ll certainly be rewinding his weaving run that left El Tri defenders on skates.