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Giovanni Reyna

‘Reyna has lost something’ - USMNT wonderkid facing fight to rediscover best form after injury nightmare

17:00 GMT+4 16/02/2022
Gio Reyna Borussia Dortmund 2021
The 19-year-old spent five months on the sidelines nursing a hamstring problem, and now has to ensure this is not a lost season at Borussia Dortmund

In a parallel universe, this would have been the season that Gio Reyna became a true star.

This could have been the year that Reyna truly made the leap from promising talent to superstar, joining Erling Haaland as a second glistening diamond in the Borussia Dortmund attack.

This could also have been the year that he solidified the title of being indispensable for the U.S. men's national team as they march towards the 2022 World Cup.

But there is no other world. This is not Spider-Man or Doctor Strange in some fancy multiverse.

Unfortunately for Reyna, the world that exists is one that has seen him forced to watch his way through what has essentially been a lost season so far.

But that is the key part of all of this: so far. This season is not over, and Reyna could yet come up big for Dortmund in the final months of the campaign, starting on Thursday.

Having recently made his return from a five-month injury lay off, Reyna could find himself in the line up when Dortmund face Rangers in the first leg of their Europa League play-off at Signal-Iduna Park.

Though the 19-year-old missed Sunday's win over Union Berlin through illness, he has shown no signs of the hamstring injury he picked up in early September returning, and as such should be in Marco Rose's thinking for the tie.

Playing against the Scottish champions would be a special for Reyna, too, as Rangers are managed by a man very close to him: Giovani van Bronckhorst, the former Netherlands star.

Van Bronckhorst, perhaps best remembered for his stunning goal against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, is a former team-mate of Reyna's father, Claudio. And it is Van Bronckhorst after whom Reyna is named, such is the bond between his father and the man who has replaced Steven Gerrard in the Ibrox dugout.

Playing this game is certainly not where Dortmund expected to be. The German giants are not accustomed to playing on Thursdays or featuring in the Europa League, but after a frustrating Champions League exit, both Reyna and BVB have the opportunity to make the best of a bad situation.

Dortmund's problems this season can be traced all the way back to Reyna's injury, which came about during the USMNT's first World Cup qualifiers of the 2021-22 season.

It has ruled him out for the rest of the USMNT's CONCACAF run so far, although Gregg Berhalter's side has managed well with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Brendan Aaronson and Tim Weah on the wing.

Dortmund have not been so lucky, though.

Without Reyna, Dortmund bungled their Champions League group-stage campaign, finishing third behind Ajax and Sporting C.P.. In the league, they sit second behind Bayern Munich, but are six points back from the nine-time defending champions and recently lost 5-2 at home to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

If they are to compete with Bayern or make a run deep into the Europa League, Dortmund will need Haaland to continue to play at an otherworldly level. But they will also need Reyna to step up to become Haaland's chief attacking partner, the creator needed to help take the forward line to another level.

Before his injury, Reyna was starting to show glimpses. Given Dortmund's No.7 jersey that was previously worn by Jadon Sancho, this was the year that Reyna was expected to replace the now-Manchester United star.

In just five appearances, he provided two goals and an assist to start the season, showing that he was more than ready for a prominent role and more responsibility going forward.

But that hope was short-lived, as Reyna was struck down so early in what could have been his breakout campaign.

And so, in the words of Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told, the return of Reyna is a major lift to the Dortmund team, the best midseason present the club could ask for.

He told Ruhr Nachrichten in January: “Gio is almost like a new signing for the second half of the season.

“He had an excellent start to the season in the summer and unfortunately we missed him for a long time.

“In a 4-3-3, he has already played very well. He can help us in midfield as a No.8, and also on the wing, although he's not a classic winger and tends to move into the centre from there.

“He is characterised by his very fine sense of which spaces he has to move into and where he can turn up between the opposing lines. The further up the field he plays, the more dangerous he becomes.”

Still, it is not all good news. Having missed several months of action, Reyna is still nowhere near full fitness. Heading into Thursday's game, he has made just one appearance, coming off the bench the final 30 minutes of that Leverkusen loss.

Even before his comeback, Dortmund coach Rose admitted that Reyna will need time to rediscover what he once was before focusing on what he could be.

"Gio Reyna is on the right track overall, but of course, he has lost something over time," he told reporters in January.

"We have to get him playable and fit to play."

That, potentially, could truly begin on Thursday. With Haaland likely to miss out through an injury of his own, this could be Reyna's chance to assert himself, to show that he is truly back.

And this could be Dortmund's chance to show that they still have plenty to play for this season, both in the Europa League and in the Bundesliga.

This does not have to be a lost season for Dortmund or Reyna. If the youngster can stay fit, and if Haaland gets back to his best, the German giants can still turn this into a campaign to remember.