USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter not sweating potential Giovanni Reyna defection

NEW YORK — United States coach Gregg Berhalter doesn’t seem overly concerned about possibly losing Giovanni Reyna to another national team.

A report in The Athletic earlier this week suggested that England’s Football Association is hoping to convince the the 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund starlet, who was born in the Sunderland area when his father, former U.S. World Cup captain Claudio Reyna, played in the Premier League, to represent the Three Lions rather than the Americans.

Reyna grew up in the United States, and is also eligible to play for Argentina and Portugal through his family’s lineage. 

But Berhalter told Yahoo Sports Wednesday that Reyna had accepted his first call-up to the senior USMNT team for a pair of late-March friendlies against the Netherlands and Wales. And while participation in the those matches would not permanently tie him to the U.S., his connections to the U.S. run deep.

Reyna father’s is one of the best American players of all time. His mother, Danielle Egan, also won six caps with the world-beating U.S. women’s team. And Giovanni has consistently appeared for the stars and stripes’ youth national teams, including at last year’s FIFA under-17 World Cup. Given all that, the USMNT boss appears optimistic that Reyna will remain with the program. 

“Claudio was a massive part of U.S. Soccer for a long time,” said Berhalter, who was the elder Reyna’s teammate at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. “His family is rich in the history of U.S. Soccer, and Gio’s been a part of our youth programs for the last number of years, and we’re comfortable with the fact that we’ve given him a good platform and we’re going to continue to support him in his development.”

Borussia Dortmund's Giovanni Reyna has accepted a United States call-up for friendlies later this spring. (Ralf Treese/Getty)

Still, you can hardly blame England for shooting its shot. Reyna is considered one of the global game’s top young talents; he’s played in six German Bundesliga contests since making his debut in January, and last week he became the youngest American to appear in the UEFA Champions League.

His Dortmund teammate, 19-year-old Jadon Sancho, has already made 11 appearances with England’s senior side. The prospect of the two lining up for Gareth Southgate’s team for a decade-plus is mouth-watering for the Three Lions, who finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

The U.S. famously failed to qualify for that tournament, breaking a streak of seven consecutive World Cup appearances. Yet even if the Americans fall short of their goal of reaching the 2022 event in Qatar, Reyna still would be unlikely to defect. At that point, he probably wouldn’t still have the option. 

While Reyna can’t be cap-tied to the U.S. in March, the same cannot be said for the competitive games Berhalter’s team is scheduled to play later in the year. 

The U.S. faces Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in early June. Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup begins in September. If Reyna stays healthy and keeps making inroads within BVB’s first team, he’ll be a shoo-in for further invites. Berhalter is clearly expecting Reyna to be a big part of his team for the rest of this World Cup qualifying cycle and beyond. 

“It’s been phenomenal to watch his progress,” Berhalter said. “What I really like about him is his mindset and his fearlessness. He goes out on the field and he just competes. You saw in the Champions League game against PSG some of that.

“If he’s playing Champions League games,” the coach added, “he’s ready to compete at the international level as well.”

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