With Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund have another exciting talent in its own ranks. At just 17, the American is one of the youngest Bundesliga players in history, though you do not notice this on the pitch. Whether physically, mentally or most striking of all – on the ball.
Last summer, Reyna moved from the academy of New York City FC to Europe, more precisely to Dortmund. Dortmund said they already wanted to commit the talent in winter 2018/2019, but at that time the transfer failed due to a missing EU passport. He received this in the form of Portuguese citizenship, which he received thanks to his mother, and it finally made the transfer possible. Therefore, he is going the same way as ex-BVB player Christian Pulisic (20, Chelsea), who previously also came from the USA and made the leap to the professionals through the youth of BVB. He is a role model for Reyna and was in contact with him before he moved.
In the 2018/2019 winter transfer window, BVB spent 15 million euros on the Argentine talent Leonardo Balerdi. In summer, Tobias Raschl and Mateu Morey joined the first team – players who are blessed with great talent but are still waiting in vain for their breakthrough. This is down to Lucien Favre, who only uses talent if he trusts the player. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the role that Reyna plays at Dortmund.
Role in the system
During the first half of the season, Reyna played for the U19 squad of Borussia Dortmund. As you can see in the picture below, the former Bundesliga player and coach Michael Skibbe preferred to play in a 4-1-4-1 system.
Reyna showed his class in the central (offensive) midfield and could impress. After the winter break, Reyna got the opportunity to show his talent in the Bundesliga and gave good performances on a high-level.
During the campaign, Favre changed Dortmund´s line-up into a 3-4-3 system. Here, Reyna was mostly substituted to play on the left wing. Because of the tactic’s flexibility, the 17-year-old can also use lots of free space in the centre.
Style of play
Despite his young age, the American loves to take responsibility on the pitch. That is one reason why he was considered to be a leader in all youth national teams and led the US team as captain at the U17 World Cup in Brazil. At Dortmund, he also shows his confidence. Reyna’s appearance at the DFB-Pokal loss in Bremen was particularly remarkable. He came on the field and immediately controlled the game. He was the initiator of many offensive actions and partly built up the game from their own half. As you can see in the image below, Reyna drops back to receive the ball. After that, he has the opportunity to turn and use the free space.
The American was to be found everywhere and flashed his individual class with his outstanding talent with every second. Take a look at his heatmap below – it is striking that even though he plays on the left wing, he has lots of possession on the right one.
Excellent on the ball
Even if Reyna’s strong foot is the right one, his left one is no less dangerous. The offensive player is very close to being perfect with both. This helps him bring his enormous intelligence with more variability to the pitch. Reyna describes himself as “entertaining, creative and selfless” – an accurate description. The American likes to participate in the midfield build-up and is a kind of playmaker. With his creative and precise interface passes, he is ideally suited for Dortmund´s game. His overall rate of accurate passing is higher than 85%.
This is accompanied by a good overview, which often enables him to use his teammates and to bring them into goalscoring opportunities in promising positions. The image below points out that Reyna is able to pass the ball in the right moment so his teammate does not stay offside.
Adding to that, he is also very good at set-pieces and can breathe new life into the game this way. Because of his flexible play style and his good dribbling abilities, it is extremely difficult to defend against Reyna. As already mentioned, he always has the option to play interface passes. But on the other hand, he is also quite good at 1-vs-1-situations so he can run down the wing to the goal line and pass the ball behind the defence.
To read the game is Reyna´s biggest strength. The details in Reyna’s game make Favre excited about him. Before the 17-year-old receives the ball, or even before there is the possibility to receive the ball, he knows how to open up himself perfectly in the half-space and to create a great effect from there with minimal, technically clean ball contacts. So before trapping the ball, he knows how to turn and what his next action should be. Reyna moves smartly and is always keen to keep an eye on his back when he can turn as he goes forward. In the next picture, you can see how Reyna is checking whether there is an opponent next to him. After that, he can turn with one contact and use lots of space again.
His assist for Erling Haaland‘s 2-1 win in the Champions League against PSG serves as a prime example: he receives a pass with his back to the opponent´s goal at the midfield line, turns immediately towards the offence, picks up speed and assists the free-standing Haaland. It was the winning goal and worthy of Dortmund´s ambitions even though they got eliminated in the second leg.
The only thing that he misses due to this style of play is a high scoring rate. Reyna can – as you could see in the DFB-Pokal – always be able to score a goal from distance. Nevertheless, he still lacks composure in front of the goal. In the image below Reyna is in a good position to score a goal but he does not score at all. However, he can easily develop coolness over the coming years. It would also be bizarre if a 17-year-old already had strengths in all areas.
Favre already trusts Reyna. Nothing is rushed and Dortmund tries to keep the media hype limited. As already mentioned in the tactical analysis, Reyna is one of the first substitute options for Favre and continues to rise in the hierarchy with further good performances. If things go on for him, Reyna should soon settle in the first eleven.
Even if his future can be assessed purely in terms of the systems and his personal preference in the centre on the central midfield (offensive), he can develop excellently in the current system in the half-space and wing positions. He is able to improve his skills and can move easily to the centre where he can prove his class.
It remains to be seen whether Borussia Dortmund – in case of a possible departure from Jadon Sancho in the summer – trust Reyna so much so that he will be given Sancho´s squad position. He definitely has the potential for this.