Claudio Reyna Profile
|Born||Jul 20, 1973|
|Birthplace||Livingston, New Jersey, USA|
One of the leading all-time appearance makers for the US Men's National Team, Claudio Reyna made a big impact for club and country. Now, he's taking on a new challenge as a sporting director in MLS.
Claudio Reyna is an American retired soccer player who played as a midfielder for clubs in Germany, Scotland, England and the USA, as well as the United States national side. He first showed his potential while playing for the University of Virginia and was selected for the US national side despite never having played professionally. He was in the US squad for the 1994 World Cup but did not play a match.
He signed for German club Bayer Leverkusen in 1994 and was then loaned to Wolfsburg in 1997 before ending his time in the Bundesliga in 1999. A move to Rangers followed but, less than two years later, he was signed by Premier League club Sunderland. He only made 28 appearances for the Black Cats as injury kept him out of the side but Manchester City opted to sign him in August 2003.
He left City in January 2007 after 87 league appearances but, once again, his progress was hampered by injuries. Reyna ended his club career in 2008, after a short spell with New York Red Bulls in MLS.
He made 112 appearances for the US national side and was part of the squad at four World Cups, playing in three.
Early years and college soccer
Reyna was born to an Argentinian father - who had moved to the States in 1968 - and a Portuguese mother. His father played lower league professional football back in Argentina and so the sport was in his blood.
His early life in New Jersey was dominated by football and he excelled while playing for St. Benedict's Preparatory School, winning the Gatorade Player of the Year award. He then played for the University of Virginia side - the Virginia Cavaliers - winning the coveted NCAA Championship in each of his three seasons at the college. He won the Hermann Trophy in 1993 for the top male college soccer player while he was named 'Soccer America' Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993.
It was during his time playing for the Cavaliers that he first encountered Bruce Arena, who was coach of the college side. Arena went on to coach the USA national team and selected Reyna on many occasions.
Heading to Europe
Reyna signed for German club Bayer Leverkusen in August 1994, taking his first steps in the professional game. The Bundesliga outfit took a gamble as he had little form to speak of apart from appearing in a number of friendly matches for the US in the lead up to the 1994 World Cup. Serbian Dragoslav Stepanovic was in charge of first-team affairs at the time Reyna arrived and clearly did not see the American as part of his plans.
Reyna struggled to secure a regular first-team starting berth. During his time at the BayArena he made just 26 league appearances and failed to score a goal. He was still young at the time but did not develop as hoped and was loaned to VfL Wolfsburg in the summer of 1997.
Under Willi Reimann, the midfielder began to show his true colours in German football and saw plenty of action for Die Wolfe. Between August '97 and April '99, he made 48 league appearances and managed to score six goals. Reyna played in midfield and supported the front players although he was not expected to be a regular scorer.
Such was his standing at the club that he became the first American to captain a European club while at Wolfsburg and, where he had failed at Leverkusen, his spell at the Volkswagen Arena was deemed a success. He went on to play for another four big clubs but it was his grounding in the German game that stood him in good stead for things to come.
Reyna's displays for Wolfsburg got him noticed and it was not too long before other clubs started enquiring about his availability. He caught the eye of then-Rangers boss Dick Advocaat and the Scottish giants pounced in April 1999. They had to pay Leverkusen $2.76million and Wolfsburg $826,400 to bring him to Ibrox.
Then in his late 20s, Reyna saw plenty of action for the Gers, and enjoyed 64 league outings, scoring 10 goals. He was used mainly as a right-sided midfielder but still managed to find the target. He scored 13 goals in all competitions. Possibly the most important was one against Italian club Parma that secured qualification for the 1999/00 Champions League.
Speaking about that goal in 2020, he said: "I remember the noise level at Ibrox that day. I'll never forget it and it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it. I still get fans who want to talk to me about it.
Rangers finished third in their Champions League group that season to slip into the UEFA Cup, as it was called then.
"It was a special moment and Rangers fans haven't had moments like that for a while. I run into fans who tell me they were 15 at that game, so that's quite cool."
Reyna admits that he loved playing in the 'Old Firm' games against city rivals Celtic during his time with Rangers. The two clubs are the dominant forces in Scottish football and the outcome of the games can determine the destination of the Scottish title.
Of the games, he said: "You feel what it means to the fans and the intensity of it. If it's not the best derby in the world, it's definitely in the top three."
His time in Scotland was deemed a success and in December 2001, Premier League club Sunderland made enquiries to take him south of the border.
Travelling south to England
Sunderland paid Rangers £2.85million ($3.9million) to sign Reyna and he made his debut against Southampton on December 15. He scored his first goal for the Black Cats on December 22 in a 1-0 victory over Everton. Reyna was a regular for the Wearsiders during the second half of the 2001/02 season, enjoying 17 Premier League outings and scoring three goals. He scored twice as Sunderland beat Leicester City 2-1 on April 1 but was sent off for two yellow cards in a 1-0 home loss to Liverpool on April 13.
He made 11 league appearances at the start of the 2002/03 campaign before injury struck in a match with Bolton Wanderers on October 28. He suffered a cruciate ligament injury which required surgery and kept him out for the rest of the season. He did not make another appearance for Sunderland and ended with three goals from 28 outings for the club.
Despite his injury woes, Manchester City paid Sunderland £2.85m to sign him in the summer of 2003. Fulham had also agreed that price but that move failed to materialise and he ended up at the Etihad Stadium. He remained with City from the summer of 2003 until January 2007 and his time in Manchester was blighted by injury.
He made 87 Premier League appearances, scoring four goals but struggled to put together a run of games. He was popular with the City supporters for his work ethic and attitude in games. He missed six months of the 2004/05 season due to injury but returned to score against Tottenham and Fulham.
In 2005/06 he made 22 top-flight appearances for City and scored once and it appeared as though his days at the club might be numbered. He continued into the 2006/07 campaign and played 15 times before then manager Stuart Pearce announced on January 11, 2007 that his contract had been terminated in order for him to return to the USA.
Back to MLS with New York Red Bulls
Reyna signed with the New York Red Bulls on January 24, 2007, linking up once again with coach Bruce Arena. He moved back to the States for footballing and family reasons, wanting his four children to grow up in America and have some stability in their lives.
It was hoped that he could put his injury problems behind him and enjoy the final few years of his playing career but that was not the case. He played only 29 times in a two-year spell at Red Bull Arena and failed to score a single goal for the club.
At the time, Arena said: "He will be as reliable a center midfielder as you can have in this league. That's a real plus, and something I think we can build our team around."
While his knee was the problem in England, it was Reyna's back and leg that caused him to sit out all but six MLS games in the 2008 campaign. A herniated disc continued to cause him pain and he announced his retirement from playing on July 16, 2008.
The New York fans got only a glimpse of what he was capable of doing but he still gave his all in games for the MLS franchise and was popular with supporters.
Claudio Reyna and the United States
Reyna will always be considered a legend among fans of the USA national team after making 112 appearances for the Stars and Stripes. He scored eight goals in a career that spanned 12 years and included being selected for four World Cups.
Despite still being at college, he was handed his first cap against Norway on January 15, 1994. He played in seven friendlies ahead of the 1994 World Cup but was on the bench throughout the USA tournament and did not make an appearance. He continued to be selected and played a full part in both the 1995 Copa America and the 1996 Gold Cup.
Reyna barely missed a game in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup but played only a few minutes of the 1998 Gold Cup due to injury, where America lost 1-0 to Mexico in the final. He played every minute of the USA's three group games in France '98 as the 'Yanks' were eliminated at the group stage having failed to pick up a point.
Injury ruled him out of several qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup but, when fit, he played his part. He was again absent for the USA's group opener in South Korea and watched his team-mates secure a valuable 3-2 victory over Portugal. He then returned to the starting line-up and played every minute of the remaining four games. Their tournament ended with defeat to Germany at the quarter-final stage. He was named in the team of the tournament.
As injuries lessened his playing opportunities, he missed more games than he played over the next four years but managed to get himself fit to feature at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was another unsuccessful World Cup campaign that ended after three group games. Captaining the side once again, he led from the front but could not inspire his teammates, whose only point came from a draw against Italy.
He retired from international football a day after the Americans exited the tournament.
Reyna married Danielle Egan in July 1997. She was a member of the United States women's national soccer team at the time and the couple had four children - Jack, Giovanni, Joah-Mikel and Carolina. Tragically, Reyna's eldest child Jack died of brain cancer in 2012.
Giovanni, who was named after Reyna's former Rangers teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst, is already a professional footballer and plays for German club Borussia Dortmund - following a similar path to his father by playing in the Bundesliga. Despite his tender years, Giovanni has already been capped by the USA and the midfielder scored his first international goal against Panama in November 2020.
Reyna now spends time managing the Claudio Reyna Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation established to provide soccer coaching and mentoring to underprivileged youngsters both in the USA and abroad. He lives in Bedford, New York and speaks fluent Spanish and can hold a conversation in German but is not fluent.
He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on February 29, 2012.
It was announced in November 2020 that Reyna had been appointed as sporting director of the new MLS franchise, Austin FC. The club will begin to play in MLS in 2021.