Vieira: Signing Giovanni Reyna a possibility for NYCFC

Giovanni Reyna - NYCFC Academy - dribbles ball in training - April 2017

There were 31 players who began preseason camp in Jacksonville, Florida for New York City FC, and perhaps most intriguing for the club’s fans is top prospect Giovanni Reyna.

The son of NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna is one of five players invited from the club’s academy to train with the first team. And when preseason ends in six weeks, the 15-year-old could find himself as the club’s next Homegrown signing.

“I think it is one of the possibilities,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “But what was important for me, Claudio and the football club, is to give those players an experience to do preseason with the first team. I think after that preseason we’re going to have a really good idea of where they are and what is the best option for them.”

That experience is a challenging one mentally and physically with double sessions in the Florida heat. How Reyna and Academy teammates Joe Scally, Tyler Shaver, Justin Haak and Dante Polvara handle it will determine their next steps.

“It’s all about the experience and to see how they’re going to cope with the physical aspect of the game, the tactical demand of the game,” Vieira said. “Day after day we have double sessions, physically it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a good test for us to analyze where they are at the moment."

Reyna, who trained with the first team at times last year, won the Premier Division Golden Ball at last year’s Generation adidas Cup and was reportedly contemplating a move to Europe in 2018 after signing with an agent and adidas late last year.

“For a kid of 15 years old, he has this physical presence and his game understanding is really good,” Vieira said. “He can score goals, he understands the demands of the game tactically. He’s a really smart kid and he’s shown some really good stuff.”

If Reyna signs with NYCFC, he would be the club’s second Homegrown signing, following in James Sands’ footsteps. The 17-year-old US youth international, who has played as both a central defender and a defensive midfielder, came off the substitutes bench to make his MLS debut in a 1-1 draw against Colorado last September.

“James is still really young and we have to keep developing him in both positions,” Vieira said. “It’s a little too early to say what will be his best position. I think we’re going to make him work as a holding midfielder and as a central back. He’s still can develop and in a couple of years I can answer you what is his best position.”

Also in preseason camp is 26-year-old central defender Sebastien Ibeagha, who was the USL Defender of the Year at San Antonio FC last year. It’s a position NYCFC lacked depth in a year ago.

“When you bring the best defender in the [USL] last year that means he has something really interesting so we just wanted to look at him,” Vieira said. “In the first few days, he’s been really good. He’s tough, he’s really strong, he has really good pace. He’s doing good.”