U.S. teen Gio Reyna ready to star for Dortmund as new No. 7

BERLIN (AP) — United States teenager Gio Reyna is poised to become one of German soccer giant Borussia Dortmund’s brightest stars after being rewarded for his remarkable development with the prestigious No. 7 jersey.

Reyna says he feels ready to take on a bigger role to help Dortmund challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title and do well in the Champions League.

“Hopefully I can have a really big impact this season,” Reyna told journalists in a video call ahead of Tuesday’s German Supercup game with Bayern.

“I just feel like over time I’m progressing, getting stronger. Mentally I’m getting stronger, physically. So I think this season can be a really exciting one for me. I’m feeling comfortable now.”

Still only 18, Reyna already seems like a veteran among the club’s young stars after becoming the youngest American ever to play in the Bundesliga on Jan. 19, 2020.

He has since made 48 appearances in Germany’s top division, and he scored his fifth Bundesliga goal on Saturday to help Dortmund start the new season with a 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Reyna’s mother, former U.S. international Danielle Egan Reyna, was among 25,000 fans at the stadium to see her son play. The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for her, and Claudio Reyna, Gio’s father and also a former U.S. international, to attend games. The family had never seen Gio start a game for Dortmund.

“At least she was able to see my first start, hopefully the first of many for them to see. It was great,” Reyna said. “I’m sure she was proud. Had to make sure to score a goal for her while she was here.”

Reyna, who previously wore the No. 32 jersey at Dortmund, inherited the No. 7 from English forward Jadon Sancho, who left for Manchester United in the off-season.

He already plays with the No. 7 when on international duty with the U.S.

“I just think seven is a nice number,” said Reyna, who appreciates the trust from the club and new coach Marco Rose.

“A good feeling to have the trust from the staff, from the club. It’s a good feeling to have the trust of my teammates. Yeah, we have a great team. So I know it’s never really a given starter role in this team, no matter who you are,” Reyna said.

Dortmund, which signed Reyna from New York City FC in July 2019, rewarded the young attacking midfielder with a new contract last year for what sporting director Michael Zorc said was his “incredible” development. He is now tied to the club through June 2025.

Reyna, who got his first goal for the U.S. three days after his 18th birthday, said it was never an option for him to play for any other country, despite being eligible to play for England through birth, and Argentina and Portugal through his father.

“I’m an American kid. I grew up there. It’s my culture. It’s my home, it’s my family. I’m American through and through,” he said.

For now he is thriving alongside captain Marco Reus and Norway star Erling Haaland at Dortmund. Reyna set up several goals last season and is looking forward to building on the fruitful relationship with his teammates.

“It’s all slowly coming together,” he said.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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