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Haaland, Sancho... Reyna? USMNT star now vital for ambitious Dortmund

17:00 BST 18/09/2020
Erling Haaland Gio Reyna Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund GFX
The young American has made the step up from prospect to first-team player and can now take his place in one of Europe's most formidable attacks

Gio Reyna enters the new Bundesliga season as the youngest member of Europe's youngest superstar ensemble. He's the freshest face on a team full of them, the newcomer in an attack that, in the last year, established itself among the game's elite.

At Dortmund, Reyna, Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland make up one of the world's best trios, and none has yet reached his 21st birthday. With their new generation of stars leading the charge, Dortmund have ambitions of challenging in the league and hopes of finally ending Bayern's reign atop the Bundesliga. 

“Personally, I want to win every game, that also applies to my teammates," Reyna recently told  Ruhr Nachrichten "We're not going into the season expecting Bayern to be champions. We expect to become champions. And I think our chances are pretty good."

Those are big words from a 17-year-old youngster just months removed from his first-team debut. Bayern's reign, one which has produced eight consecutive titles, began in 2013, six months before Reyna's 11th birthday. And Bayern enter the season as Champions League winners, the unquestioned kings of the club game.

But this is a new era for Dortmund. 

If they are to pull off a task as Herculean as winning the title, they'll need each of their front three to take a leap forward. They'll need Sancho to play like a player that was linked with a nine-figure transfer all summer . They'll need Haaland to somehow find a new gear in his quest to become the world's best striker. And at some point, they'll need Reyna to take a step forward and establish himself as more than just Dortmund's next young star.

Reyna, a player that Haaland nicknamed "the American Dream" , might be the most important piece of that puzzle. You know what you're going to get from Sancho and Haaland, two players that have already made the leap from youngster to superstar. Can Reyna find a way to join them?

“I’m ready,” Reyna recently told  Sports Illustrated . “Even towards the end of the year, I wasn't fully like out of my shell. But this season, coming back, I think a lot will change. Against Leipzig [last season], I think you can see a little bit of it - that I was ready to play. I think now this season, I want to make a really big jump.”

Entering his first full season, Reyna has just 18 first-team games to his name with his first Bundesliga start coming in June after the restart. Reyna is a player that is still entirely new to the European game, still learning what it takes to shine at a club like Dortmund.

But in that first half-season or so, he shined several times. There was his stunning goal in the DFB-Pokal, one that truly ignited his time with the senior team. Most memorably, there was a standout performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, assisting Haaland against a team that would go on to lose the final, coincidentally, to Bayern.

Last season, Reyna's main role was as a sparkplug off the bench, a supersub. If preseason is any indication, though, it appears that head coach Lucien Favre may be able to count on him to seize a bigger role.

In the buildup to the new Bundesliga season, Reyna has emerged as a key figure playing in a new spot. He led the team with four goals in preseason, featuring primarily as an attacking midfielder after spending most of last season on the wing. And then, in the club's first official game of the season, Reyna scored a free kick in Dortmund's DFB-Pokal win over Duisburg. 

Should Reyna continue on as a starter in Dortmund's attack, he'll have to earn every minute he gets on the field. Sancho's place is all but guaranteed. Haaland's is too. Youssoufa Moukoko, Dortmund's next breakthrough star, could also be in the picture by the time the winter rolls around.

But Reyna's primary competition for a spot in the Dortmund XI may be one of the club's modern icons. Marco Reus is one of Dortmund's top stars, despite several injury-plagued seasons. If Reyna is to truly emerge as Dortmund's next star, he may just need to beat out one of yesteryear.

"Not only is he our captain, he's at the top of the list of players I always looked up to as a young footballer," he said of Reus. "He helps me so much on and off the pitch. Marco is an exceptional player who has done so much for this club. "

He added: “He's a world-class player. Of course, there is competition, of course, it would be a little easier for me if he were injured! But his return has such a positive impact on us all. I can play in other positions, too, and he can do that too. And it's not just him. The competition among the offensive players is already very big."

Reyna's first act is complete. He's graduated from youth player to first-teamer and, when the international game does resume, U.S. men's national team member. Over the last eight months, Reyna's entire world has turned upside down.

But the goal is to make that second act bigger and better than the first rather than just a continuation. 

“Last summer, I was happy just to have a good impression with the first team," he said. "Dortmund gives young players all the experiences they need. And then it's almost like when they're ready, they kind of just let them loose and then show the world what they can do."

Is Reyna ready to be let loose? Time will tell. But if all of the promise, hype and excitement turn into something real, Dortmund youngest star may be ready for his own time in the spotlight.