Andres Reyes drew interest from a European club this offseason, and he makes no secret about his desire to try and make the move across the pond in the relatively near future.
He knows that to maximize his chances of doing that he must improve and impress with his new team — one that may just be a perfect fit for his blossoming skill set.
Reyes has returned to MLS for a second season, but has changed teams since last playing in 2020. The promising young centerback is no longer a loaned player at Inter Miami, and is instead one of the New York Red Bulls’ key offseason signings. He joined the Red Bulls on a full transfer from Atletico Nacional back in January, ending a stretch of uncertainty regarding his future.
“There was a moment where I did not know what was happening,” Reyes told SBI in Spanish. “I did not know whether I would continue in MLS or find an opportunity elsewhere. I was spoken to about that chance abroad and I thought it was going to happen. My agent told me about it, but in the end he told me about coming to the Red Bulls and I opted more for that so here I am.”
The chance abroad that Reyes is referring to is one from an unknown club in Belgium. Sources tell SBI that Inter Miami wanted to bring Reyes back, but the looming European interest led Atletico Nacional to make a return difficult. Following the 2020 MLS season, with Inter Miami not having completed a transfer for Reyes, the door was left open for other MLS teams to make a move for him and the Red Bulls took advantage, completing a transfer for the young Colombian.
The 21-year-old defender steps into a Red Bulls defense in place of Tim Parker, who was traded to the Houston Dynamo. Reyes boasts the type of size at 6-foot-1 that can help combat the bigger forwards in the league, the strength to hold them off, and the speed that should be effective in closing down spaces while playing in the Red Bulls’ high defensive line.
He also has solid technical skills and a notable range of passing, attributes that might not be as important on a team like Red Bulls but that are certainly a plus nonetheless.
“He has got all of the weapons to be able to fit into what (head coach Gehrard Struber) and the team want to do,” said Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell recently. “He is obviously very capable of that. We had very, very good reports on him, not only in terms of his attitude and his mentality around games but also in terms of training.”
“He is a player with very high potential,” added Thelwell. “Everybody can see that. He is a very talented young player.”
💬 "My teammates' welcoming has been great, and when it comes to the work with the team, I’ve settled little by little."
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) March 23, 2021
Therein lies one of the chief issues with Reyes, though. For as much potential as he has, he is still cutting his teeth as a professional. He has only 35 first-team appearances across all competitions in his career, and as such has shown a propensity for tuning off or making costly mistakes.
Inter Miami witnessed that first hand last year, but it still did not stop the South Florida side from initially saying publicly that it wanted to bring Reyes back in 2021. The arrival of new coach Phil Neville in the winter changed that since he wanted more experience in the defense, but the Red Bulls are known for their work with youngsters and developing them into solid pros.
“I think Andres is a player that has the ability now and when we grow him then he absolutely is a player for us, for our philosophy, and for our identity,” said Struber. “I think that is the most important thing, that when we buy a player then we have the feeling and the fantasy that the player can play in our identity and also the player has the right hunger for the next step in his career.
“I think with Andres we have exactly that player that I want in this position. I think we can make with him a very, very good development in the next time.”
Reyes is admittedly still transitioning to a different style of life in the New York area, along with learning a new way of playing. Both are challenging, one because of the cold and the other because of the physical demands.
Still, adapting to everything now may prove easier to do than in a 2020 campaign that was more challenging than Reyes could have ever envisioned.
“Last year was extremely difficult, especially for me,” said Reyes. “Being alone in Miami during those first few months hit me hard, especially with having to be locked inside during the quarantine. I had the virus, had injuries, but that is part of the past.
“This year I come in with a different mentality, and am looking to work, move ahead, and achieve the principal objective of the team, which is to win the league. That is what I am hoping will happen for me this year.”
Of course, to achieve that he will first need to forge a partnership with fellow centerback Aaron Long. As of a week ago, they had not trained together yet due in part to Reyes’ late arrival to preseason because of visa issues, and Long’s ensuing call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team.
If they can form a strong tandem and help the revamped Red Bulls raise their level considerably in 2021 then Reyes could see his stock soar given his age and skill set. He has desired a move to Europe for as long as he can remember, and with all the young talent on the Red Bulls roster, the European scouts are sure to be watching, which will give Reyes the opportunity to impress and potentially earn his long-awaited move across the Atlantic.
“With this league and the growth it has had, I think I can achieve that,” Reyes told SBI. “I think it is one of the leagues that is most followed in terms of scouting, and I expect with the progress and performance I show this year that I can make the move if a good offer comes.
“If not, I will continue to work until the opportunity comes to go to Europe and I have to maintain my level because not everyone goes there and stays there.”