Five months ago, Gregg Berhalter was preaching patience when it came to Gio Reyna, as mounting buzz was propelling the young American into the U.S. Men’s National Team conversation.
Five months later, and after Reyna’s continued growth at Borussia Dortmund, Berhalter sees a player ready for bigger challenges after being brought along at a good pace by his club.
“Dortmund did a great job of integrating him into the group in a calculated way to help him perform at high levels,” Berhalter told SBI when asked about Reyna on a conference call on Tuesday. “How do we challenge him? How do we put him in a difficult environment to help him grow as a player? He’s one of those players who will keep rising to the challenge and we need to provide him with that.”
The 17-year-old sensation become a regular fixture in Dortmund’s rotation when the Bundesliga returned to action in May. Reyna broke through with the first team in January after being promoted from the U-19 team and made an immediate impact. He wound up finishing the season with two goals and two assists in 16 matches.
In February, Berhalter told SBI that he would be patient with integrating Reyna, citing the importance of not rushing a player into the USMNT program before he was ready.
“It’s also managing that side of it, and not worrying about fan expectations because you also have a young player who needs to adapt to the demands of professional soccer,” Berhalter told SBI in Feburary. “It’s really important to be mindful of that, and just as much as he’s made progress now he can he can lose time if he gets injured or he stops playing.”
Reyna’s progression was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent stoppage in play, but when Dortmund resumed play in May Reyna was still a key part of Lucien Favre’s plan.
Berhalter had planned to call in Reyna to his first USMNT camp for the scheduled March friendlies against Netherlands and Wales, which wound up being canceled, so now Berhalter, Reyna and USMNT fans are left to wait for the return of international soccer to get their first chance to see Reyna with the senior national team.
His first chances just might come in crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing continued delays in the return of international soccer.
While Berhalter might not have been ready to throw Reyna into high-pressure qualifiers right away six months ago, a half year watching Reyna thrive in the Bundesliga and Champions League has the USMNT coach ready to give the young standout his chance.
“Gio’s going to grow into a fantastic player, there’s no question about it,” Berhalter said. “Our job is to help with that growth. Does that mean him getting an opportunity, an early opportunity, to play in difficult games? That’s going to make him better, make him rise to an even higher level.”