NEW YORK — Gio Reyna's star continues to rise.
After breaking into Borussia Dortmund's first team at the age of 17 this winter and providing a game-winning assist against PSG in his Champions League debut last week, the young American starlet is about to check off another career milestone: His first senior national team call up.
US national team head coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed to reporters that Reyna will be part of the senior squad in March for friendlies against Wales and the Netherlands.
“We talked over the last year that we want our young players playing and performing at a high level, and because of that, he gets an opportunity with the first team," Berhalter told reporters at MLS media day.
Unbelievable night to make my champions league debut but even happier for the win! Support was amazing 😍 pic.twitter.com/VtHaPe4hPP— Gio Reyna (@Gioreyna10) February 19, 2020
Reyna's rise is not a shock. He has been an automatic call-up to various levels of youth national teams, a highly regarded prospect in NYCFC's academy before his move to Dortmund, as well as a leader of the US squad at the U-17 World Cup. The timing isn't exactly a surprise, either, given Reyna's time to integrate to his new life.
“It’s just rhythm, right? You can imagine the year Gio had last year," Berhalter said. "He was at Dortmund but he can’t play in games because he’s not of age and doesn’t have his passport yet. It was a very choppy year in terms of his development, I think we saw some of that with the U-17s (at the World Cup), he didn’t have rhythm."
The U-17s crashed out of the World Cup in October at the group stage, with a draw and two losses before heading home. Since then, Reyna has taken his game to a new level, making the jump from youth to senior soccer.
“He went to preseason with Dortmund, he continued to play, and kept increasing his performance there," Berhalter said. "They’re using him in a way where he’s not asked to take full responsibility, he doesn’t have to carry the team. He’s playing a role and executing. What I really like is when he gets the ball in the pocket, his awareness to turn and efficiency is excellent. He doesn’t waste any touches to turn. His ball security under pressure is phenomenal.”
Berhalter added that he plans to use the young attacker on either wing or as a No. 10 in a 4-3-3. He also added directly that Reyna wouldn't be released for Olympic qualifying, which also takes place in March, but falls outside of a FIFA international window meaning clubs are under no responsibility to release players.
With qualifying on the horizon, US Soccer submitted a 50-man provisional squad to Concacaf for the U-23 tournament to see which nations represent the region at the 2020 Olympics later this summer. They have until March 10 to submit U-23 head coach Jason Kreis' final squad, which may include players who have already debuted for the senior national team.
“It was a collaborative process with Jason, he was taking the lead on who he wanted at each position," Berhalter said. "We ended up deferring in many cases, like we would have loved to have Reggie Cannon and Jackson Yueill to come with us to Europe and play with us. But it was a priority for Jason to use them and we’re doing everything we can to support him and this group to qualify for the Olympics.”