The USMNT international hopes to make a big impact in the Bundesliga this season.

He is only 18, but Borussia Dortmund’s new no. 7 Gio Reyna has the mind of a veteran. Reyna inherited the number from Jadon Sancho, who has now left the club to join Manchester United. Just like the Englishman, Reyna has started brightly at the club. He scored in the 5-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt that set off Dortmund to a perfect start in the Bundesliga 2021-22 season.

With no. 7 on his back, Sancho impressed for Dortmund and assisted 64 times (20 each in the last three seasons) and scored 50 goals in just 137 appearances. Before him, Ousmane Dembele was involved in 31 goals in a single season at the club. Robert Lewandowski wore it for Dortmund in the 2010/11 season.

The burden of expectations is heavy on Reyna, who is determined to perform well but not overwhelmed. “Don’t really feel too much pressure. I understand that I’m going to have to perform whether I am wearing 7 or 32 (his previous number at Dortmund). I play to perform and it doesn’t really change my mindset,” the attacking midfielder quipped.

Sancho wanted Reyna to wear it

Sancho, the previous owner of this number, wanted Reyna to wear it next when it became apparent he was leaving for Manchester United. The 18-year-old is grateful.

“We spoke about taking his number. Can’t thank him enough for what he has done, really cool of him to ask me to take his number and play wearing the no. 7 jersey,” said Reyna, youngest American to appear in the Bundesliga.

Expectations this season

Gio Reyna set that record on January 18, 2020 when he made his league debut for Dortmund, coming on as a substitute in a 5-3 win against FC Augsburg. Exactly a month later, he would also become the youngest American to play and record an assist in a Champions League fixture. Despite being only 18, Reyna has already mustered 66 appearances for Dortmund and is in his third season with the senior team.

He jokes that it feels like he is “a veteran among the club’s other younger players”. There’s no doubt that he is special and will be a key player for the club this season. Gio Reyna hopes to translate that faith into performance.

“Hopefully, I can have a really big impact this season,” he says when asked on the bigger role at the club. “I just feel like over time, I’m progressing, getting stronger mentally and physically. It’s all slowly coming together. So I think this season can be a really exciting one for me. I’m feeling comfortable now.”

Scoring with his mother present in the stands

It was evident that he is slowly getting into his groove in Dortmund’s 5-2 win over Frankfurt where Reyna scored the fourth goal. It was special for the USMNT international, not only because it was his first goal of the season but also for his mother in the stands at the Westfalenstadion. This was the first time Danielle Egan, herself a former US international, was watching her son make a start for BVB.

“Just great to have her here,’ the youngster recalled, whose father Claudio Reyna also played the game. “I had to make sure I scored a goal for her. Hopefully the first of many for her to see,” he added.

Reyna hopes to score again on Wednesday when Dortmund host Bayern Munich in the Der Klassiker, at the DFL-Supercup final. Bayern are an eight-time standing champion while Marco Rose’s side have lost the final on five occasions, including in 2020. However, Reyna is excited and hopeful that his side “can give the fans something to cheer about.”

Erling Haaland destined for greatness

Striker Erling Haaland will be crucial to Dortmund’s gameplan against the mighty Bayern, who just can’t stop scoring. The Norwegian has already netted five times in just two games this season. He’s also provided three assists. Gio Reyna sees him as one of the future greats.

“He (Haaland) is already amazing and can be unbelievable. He can really be one of the best ever,” says the 18-year-old attacker. “There is no ceiling for him. He keeps on getting better. Every day, he is picking something new and adding it to his game.”

It’s something Reyna, who idolised Kaka growing up, also wants to achieve for himself. “I want to keep contributing (goals and assists), constantly improving,” he said. “Hopefully I can do really well wearing the no. 7 jersey like the past no. 7s have done here,” he signed off.

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