Ask any US national team fan who their favorite player of all time is and you could get many different answers: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Cobi Jones, Tim Howard. The list could go on and on, but almost any length will allow them to land on Claudio Reyna.
Reyna appeared in 112 games for the US, captaining the side in the 2006 World Cup. He was a smooth operator in the midfield who was able to control a game with his technical ability and passing vision. Those abilities also allowed him to have a sterling career in Europe, playing for Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Rangers and Manchester City.
Reyna is now the sporting director for New York City FC and part of his job is evaluating youth talent in his academy. That task could be hard, given the fact that the best player in that academy just might be his son.
Giovanni Reyna is 14 years old, and already one of the “4-5 best players in the entire pool,” according to one US Soccer scout. He played in a central attacking midfielder and as a false No. 9 for NYCFC’s Under-16 squad and led that team to the Premier Division title on Saturday night at the 2017 Generation adidas Cup. This despite NYCFC being the youngest team in the tournament.
Reyna earned a penalty kick in extratime of the final against Tigres UANL, after gliding by a defender, and put the spot kick away to give his side a 1-0 win.
"He's just composed, he doesn't panic on the ball. It's the quality that his father had," legendary coach Sigi Schmid told MLSsoccer.com after the game. "He might have a touch more speed, as he showed on that penalty. He's still going to grow, he's still going to mature into his body but his composure and awareness on the field is definitely something that is very unique and good.
"You'd like to say that one day he's going to be a guy that we definitely see on the national team and that's what you hope. There's a lot of things that can happen in between but if everything goes well, he stays injury free, he continues to grow and develop and his attitude continues to stay good, soccer-wise he has all the abilities to play for the US [national team]."
Reyna operates in an attacking position for Matt Pilkington’s side and his technical ability has been matched by only a few at this tournament. His first touch is sharp, and his awareness of his teammates' movements and the defenders trying to mark him is evident. He consistently sprays balls accurately out to his wingers, but can also play an incisive pass to cut out defensive lines.
While he is not the fastest player on the field, Reyna's exceptional balance helps him glide by defenders while on the ball, and he’s rarely taken off the ball, despite not being one of the stronger players. Unlike many others, he does not slow down when the ball is on his foot, but is able to keep his pace. He had just two goals and one assist in this tournament, but he has stung a few shots that have forced goalkeepers into tough saves and he's created chances that were not finished.
All of this helped him win the Golden Ball in the Premier Division, as the best player in the tournament.
When asked what it’s like growing up in a house with a US national team legend, Giovanni told MLSsoccer.com last week, “I just see him as my dad.” Pretty soon US fans could start associating the last name Reyna with Giovanni rather than Claudio.