FC Dallas' entire business model is based around finding and developing young talent and, for most of last summer, the club was preparing for the inevitable day when it would have to sell one of the finest talents they'd ever produced. It's a day that the club knew was coming, the time to say goodbye to a player ready to move on.
That talent wasn't Bryan Reynolds, the American starlet that has now suddenly and improbably bound for Juventus. It was Reggie Cannon, the U.S. men's national team star that started in front of him, with Reynolds waiting in the wings for his own chance.
Now, just a few months after Cannon was sold to Boavista and Reynolds was handed that chance, the latter is headed to Europe as well. With just 15 career MLS starts under his belt, he's set to join Juventus, one of the biggest clubs this sport has to offer.
In some ways, it's hard to fathom just how quickly Reynolds got to this point. He's gone from backup to starter and from starter to big-money signing all just in a matter of months.
Cannon, a candidate for the USMNT's starting right back position, moved to Portugal in a $3 million (£2.2m) deal in September. Reynolds, the player that served as his backup for the entirety of his two-year MLS career, is now moving for more than triple that price.
If you ever need convincing that much can change in just a few short months, you should probably look at just how quickly Reynolds' rise came together.
"Really interesting to see a guy like Bryan Reynolds has come onto the scene so fast," U.S. U-23 coach Jason Kreis said. "It seems like Reggie Cannon was transferred years ago but it was just the summer, I believe. Bryan has had an opportunity, just for the last six months or four months of the season, and he's burst onto the scene."
That's certainly one way of putting it but another way to view it is that Reynolds' has been groomed for this, even if no one saw it happening this quickly.
Having shined with FC Dallas' academy, Reynolds became the club's youngest ever Homegrown signing in November 2016. He signed on, originally, as a forward, but was quickly transitioned to fullback in what now looks like a fairly smart decision from FC Dallas.
He made his MLS debut in 2019, earning one start among 10 appearances, and entered 2020 as a more regular part of the first team. When Cannon was sold in September, FC Dallas had their ready-made replacement in Reynolds, a player that was expected to take a similar path to his predecessor.
Once thrust into the lineup, Reynolds' excelled. His ability to get into the attack was effortless, as he provided three assists in 2020. At 6' 3", he has incredible size and, despite the fairly limited sample size, appears to be a good crosser of the ball from out wide, prompting comparisons in Italy with Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“He has great range in the attack, he gets into great spots, he makes smart decisions with his runs, he’s a great crosser with the ball, probably one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” said longtime FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges. "The thing I like about him is when he’s crossing the ball, he’s looking to pick out the runners coming into the box and he’s not just blindly crossing it.”
It took just 14 starts in 2020 for Europe to see just that. Juventus, Roma, Fiorentina and Club Brugge have all been linked for several weeks now. Somewhat ironically, after a rapid rise, the Reynolds' transfer saga has been relatively drawn out as clubs battled for the right to sign American soccer's next star.
In the end, Juventus have won out, as many expected they would. Reynolds appears bound for Turin and will join Weston McKennie, coincidentally another product of the FC Dallas system even if he left before reaching the first team.
Like McKennie, Reynolds isn't just a signing to sell shirts or market in America; he fills a need. Juventus will see Reynolds as a potential long-term answer at right back, a player that can step in to replace winger-turned-wingback Juan Cuadrado or Brazilian defender Danilo.
By paying $10m (£7m/€8m) to sign the young American, Juventus showed just how much they value him. He'll spend the rest of this season with Benevento, as Juventus have no room for another non-EU player on their roster. But, eventually, Reynolds will get his chance to prove that he is exactly what Juventus paid for.
“You talk about surprise at maybe the amount of the transfer, I mean, those are still good deals,” FC head coach Luchi Gonzalez told MLSsoccer.com a few weeks ago. “It's almost a steal, too, because the young player just needs to play well wherever he goes and the [buying] club can triple that, quadruple that, if their use of the player is smart and they create an even higher market and value for the player. So, it's all business.
“I'm proud of it more than being skeptical of it.”
He added: “I would say some of his best performances are on par with any top right back in the league. And he's still learning. He's still young. He’s still understanding the game tactically, his defensive positioning and his responsibilities without the ball and ball recovery, but certainly with the ball, I think he's as good as it gets in MLS and he's still only a 2001 [birth year]."
Currently, Reynolds is with the U.S. U-23 team as part of a January camp that combines the Olympic squad with the senior team. At just 19, he could certainly feature at the Olympics this summer, although that will now depend on whether or not Juventus' would want him to participate.
But it's now quite clear that Reynolds has entered himself into what is suddenly a fierce battle at the right back position at the international level. After all, there's Sergino Dest, who sealed his move to Barcelona this past summer. There's DeAndre Yedlin, a man reborn at Newcastle in recent weeks. And there's also a familiar face in Cannon, a player that doesn't look long for Boavista having flourished with the Portuguese club since making the move.
"What we're looking for in the national team program from our outside backs is that we need guys that can get all the way forward and get all the way back," Kreis said. "We're looking for quality in the attacking third and we're looking for quality in one-v-one defending and quality in positional defending to help cover the back four, to connect back to their back four.
"[Reynolds] is typical, I think, of a lot of the young outside backs where he's got some of the qualities. He's got a tremendously high amount of potential, but still learning some of the finer details of his position. So, really, really interesting to try to continue to monitor him and hopefully get him in more often."
And now, Reynolds will look to take his next step in Serie A, still a league renowned for its defending even if that reputation has dwindled a bit in recent years. The move is a massive step for a player that entered the 2020 MLS season with just one career start.
All the tools are there, though, and many of them have been on full display despite his relatively-limited first-team minutes. Reynolds could very well be American soccer's next defensive star, even if most American fans hadn't seen him play just 15 weeks or so ago.
His rise has been, for lack of a better word, meteoric. From backup to starter and from starter to Juventus signing, all in a matter of months. Who on Earth could have seen that coming?