New Austin FC sporting director Claudio Reyna was formally introduced to Austinites on Tuesday, via an afternoon press conference and an evening gathering in which fans were given the opportunity to pose questions to the former US international midfielder. Many of the fans’ questions, as you might expect, centered on how and when the squad would be assembled.
While the club has indicated that a first player would likely arrive next summer, Reyna hinted in an interview with MLSSoccer.com after the event that the club’s first player could arrive even sooner.
“The next MLS window is February to May, and we’d be open to the potential.” Reyna said. “Teams are in positions where they might be ready to dump players for whatever reason. It’s going to be interesting for us to look into. So, I will be fielding calls and making calls.”
In comparing his new project to building New York City FC’s roster from scratch prior to the 2015 season, Reyna noted the importance of Targeted Acquisition Money and the Expansion Draft in “finding players that are really good value for the money.”
“There are some very good players also, that are perhaps not in the right situations that we have to look into, that could fit in our style,” Reyna said. “It may just lead to a sort of a reset or restart in someone’s career. I'm big on that.”
In the Q&A session with fans, Reyna hinted that Designated Players coming to Austin might not be of the David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo variety that marked NYCFC’s debut season.
“New York is a very cluttered market with so many teams and just so much going on, that we decided … it was important to bring in big names to make a splash, to see if we could cut through the clutter.”
Reyna went on to explain the focus for building Austin FC will be on which players could potentially make the biggest contribution toward the team’s immediate playoff ambitions.
Reyna already has a key partner in building Austin FC’s squad, as the front office made the somewhat unconventional move of hiring a head coach – Reyna’s former US men’s national team teammate Josh Wolff – four months before hiring a sporting director.
“I’m really excited to be working with Josh,” Reyna said. “He’s long overdue to be a head coach in MLS.”
Though Wolff was announced in July, he only arrived in Austin for full-time duty earlier this week. Wolff noted that building out a scouting network would be vital to their immediate work, adding that Reyna’s arrival is crucial in helping him identify and target players.
“There will be ideas of the style that I want to bring out in the players, and certainly with our team,” Wolff said. “But we'll also learn from the players. They’ll show us some of the things that we didn't know, because again, through scouting, you don't get every picture, but you get a good picture.”
Reyna noted that while the search for players will be global, there will be a special emphasis on Latin American players. One fan asked – in Spanish – how Reyna’s multilingual capacities will help in the recruiting process.
“It’s important when you speak to a player, and you can connect with them in speaking the language,” Reyna noted. “There's a little bit more trust in communication and what's being said, so it is helpful, I've known for me personally, with my experiences in the past, being able to speak Spanish is helpful.”
Even though the 2021 preseason is over a year away, Reyna is fully focused on it, mindful of his NYCFC experience and the challenges of simultaneously bringing in multiple players all at once.
“We have to make sure that when players come to Austin FC, they feel welcome, they feel part of the family,” he stated.